From the Director of High Performance
Kia ora tatou,
Today marks one year to go until the opening of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
This milestone is unique, in that it comes less than two years after the conclusion of the last Olympic Games in Tokyo on 8 August 2021. The current shortened summer Olympic and Paralympic cycle is something never previously experienced in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Games.
We cannot underestimate the pressure that has placed on the sports we work with, the athletes themselves, their coaches and their support teams and it is important to acknowledge the mahi that has gone in from all of them to get to this point. We have all had to adapt like never before as a result of COVID-induced constraints, delays and subsequent cost and time pressures, some athletes will have relished the shorter cycle and the lesser time required to commit to another Olympic or Paralympic Games.
But this milestone is all about looking forward rather than back. It is about what needs to happen between now and 26 July next year to ensure our athletes shine in Paris.
In this edition of HPSNZ Update, HPSNZ Board member and legendary Olympian Dame Valerie Adams reflects on the milestone from an athlete’s perspective, sharing insights from her own career and advice for athletes with Paris in their sights.
From the team behind the team, HPSNZ Performance Psychologist Dr Campbell Thompson considers the pressures athletes and coaches will face over the next 12 months and the lessons from Tokyo that will help our Paris hopefuls.
We also take a look at the medical and nutrition support rowing mums Brooke Francis and Lucy Spoors have received to enable them to get back in the boat for the recent Rowing World Cup and upcoming World Championships as they attempt to qualify for Paris.
World Championships and other Paris qualification events are in full swing and we are already seeing compelling performances from some Kiwi athletes. The coming months will be filled with the opportunities, triumphs and inevitable disappointment for some, which come with the qualification and selection processes that dominate this part of the cycle.
As the excitement and pressure builds over the next 12 months, we will be working hand in hand with sports, athletes and coaches to ensure no stone is left unturned in the pursuit of New Zealand’s success in Paris. We’ll also be there to support their wellbeing, especially for those who will experience disappointment.
Meanwhile, we are working to support the sports and athletes most impacted by last week’s announcement that Victoria will no longer host the 2026 Commonwealth Games. We’re also in close contact with the NZOC and Commonwealth Games Federation to understand what the contingency plan might be.
Ngā mihi nui
One Year to Go – Dame Valerie Adams’ advice and insights for athletes
With one year to go until the 2024 Olympic Games opening ceremony along the River Seine in Paris, we chatted with one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most successful, longest serving and most celebrated Olympians and HPSNZ board member, Dame Valerie Adams.
Dame Valerie shares her thoughts on her own experiences over five Olympic campaigns and provides insights for next year’s Kiwi Olympic hopefuls.
Paris 2024 – Managing the pressure
The road to Paris 2024 is littered with challenges, opportunities, expectations, ambitions and aspirations. For the athlete hopefuls, managing the pressure in the lead up, during and after a pinnacle events like the Olympics and Paralympics is more than ever a collaboration with their coaches, close support team and often their sport psychologist.
HPSNZ and Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games team psychologist, Dr Campbell Thompson, says planning for the Paris 2024 mental game is well underway and findings from the performance psychology team’s research into Tokyo delivery are being used to inform the preparation.
“Tokyo was a unique Olympics and Paralympics in so many ways,” says Campbell. “Because of COVID isolation and MIQ mandates, the psychology support team had I guess you’d say the luxury of being fully immersed in the Olympic and Paralympic bubble, and then had a decent amount of time for reviewing, research and reporting on the learnings from Tokyo.”
Having conversations about female athletes’ health
Sport is a powerful platform to promote gender equity, advocacy and empowering women and girls in sport.
A critical element to support this work is the inclusion in both Sport NZ and HPSNZ strategies that aims to address the barriers to female health and performance across the end-to-end pathway and to maximise the opportunity to thrive in sport.
A priority for Healthy Women in Performance Sport Lead, physiologist Dr Sue Robson, and medical female health specialist, Dr Helen Fulcher, has been to hear directly from female athletes about their experiences, concerns and future needs to inform planning.
Mum rowers breaking new ground
Olympic silver medallists and now Paris double scull aspirants, Brooke Francis and Lucy Spoors, have been setting the rowing world and sports media abuzz not only with their success in getting into a World Cup boat but doing so while balancing the commitments of parenthood and elite sport.
Brooke, with 10 month old Keira, and Lucy and seven month old Rupert have taken the rowing world by storm with their commitment to getting back on the water and into international competition so soon after the arrival of their babies.
Much has been written about the post-partum high performance feats of the rowers but for Brooke, Lucy and the HPSNZ health performance support team it has been the uniqueness of the challenge and the limited medical data available to support the women’s return to international elite rowing that has made this a voyage of discovery.
New Leadership for HPSNZ Board
HPSNZ has a new Chair and Deputy Chair as of this month.
The appointments of Raewyn Lovett as Chair and Duane Kale as Deputy Chair of the HPSNZ Board were announced by the Minister for Sport and Recreation Grant Robertson earlier in the month.
Raewyn takes over from Bill Moran as chair of the HPSNZ and Sport New Zealand Ihi Aotearoa Boards. Bill stepped down as chair of both boards at the end of June after five years in the role.
Young squash players benefit from Pathways programme
Two young Wellington squash players are already reaping the benefits of participating in the HPSNZ Pathways programme.
Wellington is one of several regions participating in the Pathways project and 17 year old Maiden-Lee Coe and 16 year old Oliver (Oli) Dunbar both exceeded expectations and their rankings at the recent National Squash Championships in Tauranga, gaining selection for the upcoming World Junior Championships in Melbourne.
Squash Wellington General Manager, Russell Henderson, says the pair’s success has been greatly helped by the assistance and support they receive through the HPSNZ Pathways programme, which kicked off in Wellington at the beginning of 2023.
Athlete Leaders Network Board confirmed
The Athlete Leaders Network (ALN), established in October 2022, has appointed its ongoing Board, to be chaired by Sarah Cowley Ross.
The ALN includes athlete leaders from Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games sports and was established as an independent athlete voice mechanism to empower athletes and advocate for change from within the sporting system.
Upon its establishment an interim Board was appointed, and DJ Forbes has since been appointed as the ALN’s General Manager.