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PROTRACK » GENERAL » NZ athletes suffer similar funding issues to Aussies

NZ athletes suffer similar funding issues to Aussies

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Athletics: Funding an obstacle for top-level competitors
- Manawatu Standard

OPINION: Congratulations to Zac Topping and Ben Langton-Burnell on their selection to represent New Zealand at the Oceania Regional Track and Field Championships in Apia, Samoa, next month.

Zac has been selected to compete in the 100m, 200m and relay, and Ben in the javelin..

One of the major obstacles athletes need to overcome is funding. Unfortunately, many are self-funded and some just cannot raise the money to compete in all the meetings.

I read with envy the situation in Australia where the TV rights for rugby league have just been re-negotiated for $7.5 million, and you see rumoured individual contracts of $400,000 a year regularly being offered.

Oh for a situation like that.

This, of course, is nothing new and reminds me of the comparison I made many years ago between two of Manawatu's most talented sports people, Nick Cowan and Mark Ranby.

Both were members of our club and national schools and age-group titleholders.

They were also both talented rugby players.

Mark decided on rugby, became an All Black and, with the introduction of professional rugby, became immediately fairly financially secure.

Nick, however, followed his athletics dreams, competed at the world championships and with most of his competitions being self-funded, had overdrafts to clear.

* Must say I was very disappointed to read that Jacko Gill will have to improve his best distance by half a metre in order to compete at next year's London Olympics.

Comments on the NZ Run website have questioned the accuracy of some of the facts in the article.

Kerryn Smith, of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, is reported as saying that although the New Zealand Olympic selection standards are yet to be confirmed, the standards will often be different from that set by the individual sport's international body.

The New Zealand standard is usually based on a top-16 finish and, based on this, Smith indicated that improvements Gill will need to make are not insignificant.

It is this statement that is called into question by NZ Run, which says:

"The calculation by Smith which concludes that Jacko's recent performance of 20.01m is 49cm below the 20.50m performance, which would equate to a top-16 level result, is inaccurate.

"Using past Olympic Games results as a guideline for performance standards, one can see that in 2008, a throw of 20.02m was required for qualification through to the final of 12 athletes, and 16th place in qualifying was 19.91m.

"Then, in the 2008 final, Jacko's current best of 20.01m would have placed him 11th, well within the top-16 guideline that Smith suggests will be set at or higher than 20.50m.

Ad Feedback "We also see a similar situation when looking at the 2004 Olympic results with 19.67m being 16th place in the qualifying round and a 20.01m performance equivalent to 10th place in the final.

"The IAAF standards have been set at 20.50m (A) and 20.00m (B).

"If strictly applying a top-16 policy, it is possible we could see a NZ selection standard for the men's shot put which is equivalent to the IAAF B standard, rather than a higher standard as implied by Smith.

"Despite making reference to Athletics NZ's forthcoming selection policy, the article fails to note specifics within current ANZ policies, which may allow Gills' selection even with a B-standard performance, and the fact that Gill's recent performance was set outside the Olympic qualifying period which began on May 1.

"The development athlete clause at the current world championships would appear to apply in this situation and if retained in the Olympic policy could allow his selection without any need for significant improvement at all, as suggested by Smith.

"The development clause allows for consideration of athletes who only meet the B standard as long as they have the "potential to develop into a successful top-16 athlete in the next four-year cycle – a mere formality it would seem for Gill."

I couldn't agree more with these comments.

Gill, at 16, is already our greatest shotputter and has the potential to become one of our greatest sportsmen. He should be sent to London just for the experience alone.

I do have concerns at the apparent double standards that appear to exist between sports. For individual sports the criteria appears to be to reach the semifinals (top 16), but for team sports it appears to be getting to the second round.

Hardly consistent, but then again I've always questioned the inclusion of team sports in the Olympics.

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