South Canterbury just got a big stake in the London Olympics.
Which is not to suggest that's a surprise; it was always likely the strong cycling tradition here would again deliver places for locals at the greatest sporting show on earth. But it's official now, and the fact that there are two participants from Timaru is certainly cause for celebration.
For Marc Ryan, who has been a fixture in the national team pursuit quartet for some time, his selection represents a truly notable achievement, a place at a third Olympic Games. Getting to one Olympics is a significant accomplishment in its own right, but making three is massive. It speaks to a remarkable long-term consistency of performance, underpinned by ongoing hard work and discipline.His place in New Zealand's biggest Olympic track cycling team yet also offers the unassuming 29-year-old the chance to add to the bronze medal he won in Beijing four years ago as a member of the pursuit foursome.
But as exciting as his selection is, especially as the pursuiters are again considered one of our biggest medal hopes, it may, at this stage, be the tiniest margin behind the news of Shane Archbold's place in the team, given that it's the 23-year-old's first games.
Certainly, if Ryan returns with more precious metal hanging around his neck, and he's predicted the team could improve on bronze, we'll be quick to throw him a parade down Stafford St as happened four years ago. But there's something thrilling about seeing a young man who has grown up in this community, whose accomplishments have been closely monitored as he's grown up, taking his first steps on to the biggest stage he'll ever grace.
Indeed, he's where Ryan was eight years ago, and no doubt the elder will play a big role in helping him process the experience.
It's been a heady couple of years for the man who sports arguably the most impressive mullet in world sport. Fewer than two years ago, in May 2010, he was awaiting delivery of $20,000 worth of chocolate from Cadbury to sell to support his efforts to get to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
He got there, and then he went further, winning a silver medal in the omnium at the world championships in Holland last year, and going on to be named BikeNZ Track Rider of the Year.
A fifth place in Melbourne this month was a reality check, but the fact is he'll be in the lineup for the omnium's Olympic debut, so he can start to dream about just how far he might go.
Well done, young men. South Canterbury salutes you.
- The Timaru Herald