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Paige Hareb's career has been given a much-needed shot in the arm, with the Government giving her $20,000 to help compete against the world's best next year.
The Taranaki surfer has become the first and only individual from a non-Olympic sport to receive Crown cash under a new funding strategy announced yesterday.
For the first time, High Performance Sport New Zealand is embracing both athlete-specific and non-Olympic funding - with six individuals identified as recipients.
Hareb, 22, who competes on the elite world circuit and has had a top-10 ranking in the past four years, has had to rely on public handouts and private backing to cover costs.
She said the news was a major breakthrough for her career.
"It's awesome that High Performance Sport NZ have given me this opportunity," Hareb said. "I'm pretty happy with what they've decided to give me and also, to be the only individual, non-Olympic athlete on the list. That's pretty special.
"There's no excuses now, I can work with my coach a lot of the next few months and won't have to spend so much time fundraising.
"It's becoming more and more of a struggle to financially remain on the tour each year."
Teenage golfer Lydia Ko, the 15-year-old world No 1 amateur, who this year became the youngest ever winner of a professional Tour event, benefits to the tune of $230,000 split over the next two years. Golf is included in the 2016 Olympics.
Her funding has been reliant on a trust fund operated by New Zealand Golf, the philanthropy of Sir David Levene and her parents' pockets.
Chief executive of HPSNZ Alex Baumann said he was pleased to be able to help proven, individual athletes.
"I think it's important but we have to take these on a case by case basis," Baumann said.
"We had to allocate our priorities first and it's a challenge. We have to have a door open where medals or world titles can be achieved in 2016."
The other individuals benefiting are canoe slalom duo Luuka Jones and Mike Dawson, who get a combined $135,000 for 2013, while boxer Alexis Pritchard and Taekwondo exponent Vaughan Scott will receive $90,000 and $17,000 respectively next year.
Rowing, yachting and cycling were identified as priority sports for government funding over the next four years.
Off the back of team eventing bronze at London 2012, equestrian is the major mover, set to receive $7.6 million to 2016 (compared with $3.2m between 2009-2012), while rowing will remain New Zealand's best-funded sport ($18.4m), followed by cycling ($15.6m), and yachting ($11.2m).
Athletics is up slightly to $7.6m while Lisa Carrington's gold medal performance has seen canoeing rise almost $1.5m to $4.8m.
While they didn't win a medal, finishing fourth in London, the women's Black Sticks' funding has also increased over the next four years, boosted by more than $2m to $5.2m.
The losers included swimming, downgraded from a specifically targeted Olympic sport to now being a "campaign-based" sport. In other words, in being guaranteed $1.4m for 2013 it has lost $250,000 and importance now goes on the world championships for long-term funding.
The result means top swimmer Lauren Boyle, who won gold and bronze from the world short course championships during the past week, has some security.
Men's hockey has been dealt a tough blow and will only receive $800,000 next year following a poor Games. Over the last four-year cycle the men's Black Sticks received $3.1m.
Triathlon also faces a fight back, down to $5.6m over the full Olympic cycle from $6.1m.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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