Time for Taranaki to address Commonwealth Games drought

GLENN MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 04/08/2014

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OPINION: Unless you were paying close attention, you probably didn't see it.

What? Taranaki's involvement in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

For a province of 110,000 people, Taranaki was the most under-represented region in the New Zealand Commonwealth Games team.

It was left to relay swimmer Dylan Dunlop-Barrett to fly the Taranaki flag in Scotland, although even that link is rather tenuous since he now lives in Auckland.

It's a representation which should make all of us living between Waverley and Mokau a little embarrassed.

Every other province in New Zealand has been cheering on its representatives while we watch on enviously.

Although some, hopefully few, will not care a jot about no Taranakians pulling on the silver fern at Glasgow, we should do, because this province desperately needs some heroes and heroines, even if it is only for a short time.

Taranaki does not have a rich history in Commonwealth or Olympic Games.

Yes, the great Peter Snell was born in Opunake, but he spent most of his life outside the province, while we also have Norm Read and Stan Lay to look back on with nostalgic eyes.

The last born and bred Taranaki sportsman to win gold at a Commonwealth Games was Ben Souness who was part of the New Zealand sevens team which triumphed in Delhi, 2010.

It's a pretty sad record, to be honest, and one various sporting powerbrokers in the province should be looking to improve drastically.

Questions should also be asked as to what Sport Taranaki is doing to lift the province's record to some level of respectability.

The organisation has been around long enough to be having more of an impact that what it is.

Sport Taranaki has introduced its Future Champions pro- gramme but it was about 10 years too late in many people's eyes.

Is it a lack of funding or a lack of ability which has hamstrung athletes from these parts?

We constantly hear what a great sporting province we are but where is the evidence to back it up?

Maybe we concentrate too much on rugby because we can sometimes be half decent at it or maybe we simply do not push our athletes hard enough, thinking participation is of more benefit than success.

Schools should also take a harder look at themselves and what they are doing to help those talented individuals within their classrooms.

There is a fine balance between pushing individuals too hard and burning them out too young but success is a great motivator for anyone of any age.

I'd like to think there will be more Taranaki representatives by the time the 2018 Commonwealth Games rolls around but given our record, it's hard to see a flood of names coming out of the mist to be standing at the start line on the Gold Coast.

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Given the time zone, it would be fantastic to be sitting in front of the box cheering on a Taranaki athlete instead of watching with envy as every other province enjoys the show.

- Taranaki Daily News

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