Predictions of sports glory from Waikato

MARYANNE TWENTYMAN
Last updated 05:00 14/08/2012
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The purse strings may be tightened but the sporting fraternity is banking on a new era of excellence from the Waikato region.

In the wake of Olympic success from Karapiro-based rowers comes the assertion from Bike NZ chief executive Kieran Turner that the National Cycling Centre of Excellence in Cambridge will be a "game changer" come 2016.

"I'm convinced more than ever it's going to be a game changer," he said on arrival back in New Zealand yesterday.

"Look at the Brits - they have had a centralised programme for six to eight years and we were still competitive against them, so having all of our athletes and staff in one place will be huge for us."

He was not concerned about reports that funding to Sport New Zealand and High Performance Sport New Zealand would be frozen for the next two years.

"The Government had already increased their budget from $40 million to $60m a year over four years in 2010," he said. "[The Gover-nment] is also contributing towards the centre of excellence and we'll be soon putting our funding bid in for the next few years - we are pretty happy with where things are at."

He also thinks that the Avantidrome in Cambridge, set for completion by Christmas next year, will also act as a drawcard for more high-performance and endurance sports to base themselves in the Waikato.

"Once you get a cluster you will get some sort of critical mass coming off that and you will find naturally other sports will want to leverage off that expertise."

Former All Black and Sport Waikato chief executive Matthew Cooper is also looking forward to the development of cycling in the region.

"We have got something special evolving here - the rowers have been so suc-cessful because they are all based here and have a benchmark to keep them at the top of their game. The same can hap-pen for cycling and then, when you look at sports like Triathlon NZ, why would-n't they want the chance to bench-mark against like-minded athletes?"

He hoped that future funding would be performance-based and he believed much could be learnt from the success of Rowing NZ.

"We need to analyse why some sports, like rowing, were so successful."

With rowing, Cooper said "all the elements came together" to create such an excellent result in London.

"One, we have a very good stretch of water at Karapiro, two, the athletes are all together and three, they benchmark themselves against each other which is where many other sports fall down."

He did not think throwing more funding at struggling sports was going to help.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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