Maximising Performance at the Commonwealth Games 2018
The areas set up in the Athletes’ Village, which aim to mimic and simulate the athletes’ daily training environment as closely as possible were first piloted at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games before the areas were enhanced at the record breaking 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.
According to positive feedback from athletes and support staff the gym, physical preparation area – which included hot and cold recovery pools, watt bikes and stretching areas – nutritional support area and quiet space in Rio proved an overwhelming success which, according to HPSNZs Athlete Performance Support General Manager Martin Dowson, makes total sense to repeat in Gold Coast.
“The biggest learning we took (out of Rio) was the value the spaces added,” explains Martin. “This exceeded our pre-Games ambitions in regards to their impact which was very rewarding.”
He says in Rio the highly successful New Zealand athletics team which snared four medals -including shot putters Valerie Adams, Tom Walsh and pole vaulter Eliza McCartney – found the gym set up specifically for New Zealand athletes ‘a real time and energy saver.’
“It was a real point of difference compared to other athletes living in the Olympic Village who had to travel up to an hour to complete a session at an official offsite training venue, which was set up for all the competing nations. Because the gym was set up in the same apartment block as where the team were housed they did not have to travel to get there.”
The snack packs set up for the athletes by HPSNZ nutritionist Dane Baker in the nutritional support areas in Rio were also a huge hit, according to Dowson. And while he is reluctant to call the packs a determining factor in terms of the fight for medals they proved a vital nutritional source across long days training and competition ort for Olympic 2016 trap shooting silver medallist Natalie Rooney.
“During her competition day Natalie would have ordinarily had to rely on food provided at the competition venue,” he explains. “However, the quality and volume was moderate (out of the competition venue) and she commented on the value and benefit of eating familiar foods out of our snack packs.”
The “quiet space” set up for Kiwi athletes and coaches to down regulate from the stresses and stimulus of high performance sport also proved a success with Martin saying he was surprised by the number of people who used the area on multiple occasions.
In Gold Coast, HPSNZ have promised to replicate an “almost identical” approach to Rio as they seek to create the best possible environment for the team. With the physical preparation area, kitchen and quiet space within the village accommodation and gym in the basement car park all the facilities are easily accessible for the team.
Meanwhile, as the event takes place close to home in Gold Coast, it should not provide the same level of challenges that Rio presented.
“Logistically it is a lot easier,” he adds. “In Rio we came up against a lot of complications we didn’t expect from a lack of readiness in the Athletes’ Village in terms of plumbing, electrics and finishing that put us on the back foot. However, because we are much more familiar with Australia and we’ve had some site visits we expect the challenges to be very minor compared to what we experienced in Rio.”
A team from HPSNZ; Nutritionist Dane Baker, Strength and Conditioning coach Guy Mothersole and Performance Physiologist Anna Skipper have been selected to operate the preparation and recovery areas. They will join the wider HPSNZ team of performance practioners from nutrition, performance health, medical, therapists, strength and conditioning, physiology, physiotherapy and psychology who will support the NZOC during the Games from April 4-15.
So what difference does Martin believe the recovery and preparation areas will make to the New Zealand team?
“Performance comprises so many factors and the margins between winning gold and not getting on the podium at all are getting smaller and smaller,” he says.
“This makes attention to detail and preparing adequately essential to performance. We know from our experiences in Rio and Glasgow it was highly valued by the athletes who appreciate the accessibility and familiarity of what we provide and which in turn allows them to prepare as they normally do and help them perform to their optimal level.”