Talent not in Games sports

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 05/08/2014
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Taranaki will not be welcoming home a pack of triumphant Commonwealth Games athletes but that's not a reflection of the region's sporting prowess, the sporting community says.

Taranaki was the most under-represented region in the New Zealand Commonwealth Games team - our only representative being relay swimmer Dylan Dunlop-Barrett, who now lives in Auckland.

Chief executive of Sport Taranaki Howie Tamati said the organisation was not to blame for the lack of Taranaki representation at the Games.

He said Sport Taranaki had programmes in place to support potential Olympic and Commonwealth Games athletes but as a regional sports trust, it was not core business.

"What people need to understand is we're not a high performance centre, we run a community-focused organisation.

"We don't presume to tell sports what to do, we have to be there for their invitation."

Sport Taranaki provided the opportunity for kids to aspire to an elite level, but the ball was in their court in terms of how they trained and how they performed, Tamati said.

The organisation runs the Future Champions Programme to identify and support secondary school kids in the province who showed promise and ability.

Taranaki sporting personality Steve McKean said Taranaki was strong in sports like inline hockey, surfing and surf lifesaving.

"There's certainly been success with athletes here in the province, just different sports than you see in the Commonwealth Games."

He also said Sport Taranaki had a much bigger scope than just picking out the future champions.

The onus was on the regional organisation of the individual sport in conjunction with its national parent organisation to develop the athlete and create pathways for them to become a national champion, McKean said.

"The onus is not on Sport Taranaki, we do not have the resources."

Swimming coach Sue Southgate said she believed smaller regions allowed sport to thrive because it was such an important part of provincial life.

She said Taranaki suffered from young sporting talent moving away to the bigger centres for university.

But long distance swimmer Charlotte Webby was proof it was possible to study extramurally and train at an elite level, Southgate said.

If an athlete had the dream and a coach behind them who they trusted, there was no reason they couldn't reach elite level living in Taranaki. "It's talent and a willingness to do the work."

Kelvin Wackrow, who has been involved in athletics in Taranaki since 1953 and is a life member of Taranaki Athletics, said running was suffering from a combination of kids being more sedentary and people being too busy to coach.

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He still does some athletics coaching but worries about the lack of new coaches coming through.

"I'm 77 and if I fall over tomorrow, who's going to take those kids on?"

Wackrow said it wasn't a problem Sport Taranaki could fix.

"It's just the way of living at present."

- Taranaki Daily News

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