Any vehicle can only perform to its maximum with adequate fuelling and it will be High Performance Sport NZ nutritionist Dane Baker’s role to fulfil the same requirement for the 240 or so New Zealand athletes during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Baker is part of a four-strong team put together by High Performance Sport NZ in partnership with the NZOC to operate the Athlete Preparation and Recovery Areas designed to mimic and simulate the athletes daily training programmes.
The services set up in the Athletes’ Village will be offered exclusively for Kiwi athletes and include a gym, a physical preparation and recovery area, a quiet space and nutritional support – the latter of which will be overseen by Dane.
The Athletes Preparation and Recovery was first piloted for the New Zealand team at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games grew and evolved for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in which the Auckland-based nutritionist executed the same role.
Once again relishing the opportunity to play a small part in the Kiwis’ medal push in the white-hot heat of a Games-time environment, Dane believes he learned some valuable lessons from his experiences in Rio.
“The key for us was the planning we did before the competition,” explains Dane, a nutritionist for the Black Ferns Sevens, Men’s Black Sticks and Chiefs Super Rugby team.
“In Rio we knew we were going into a challenging environment and we often had to revert to our third contingency plan because of certain issues we faced with power and plumbing.
Those problems solving skills and planning for the worst, even in a more familiar environment in Gold Coast, will be very important.”
Preparing for the possibility of a mechanical breakage, Dane and the team have shipped many replacement parts on containers plus all the necessary equipment for their arrival on March 20 when he and his fellow team members Guy Mothersole and Anna Skipper will set up the facilities before the first athletes role into the Village four days later.
Once the kitchen is up and running, it will be Dane’s role to make up the athletes’ daily snack packs, ice slushies and recovery drinks, which will help the men and women proudly representing the Silver Fern to be adequately fuelled and to perform at their best.
The snack packs which effectively provide “two substantial snacks a day” will contain a range of non-perishable items including flavoured milk, tuna, nuts, crackers, peanut butter, muesli/recovery bars and dried fruit.
“We introduced the snack pack in Rio to help he recovery and preparation process and we found that over the course of the Games they became important to the Kiwi athletes,” explains Dane, who expects to serve up close to 2000 packs within a three-week period.
“The foods in the pack are familiar to New Zealanders but which can’t always be guaranteed in the Games environment.”
Providing sufficient ice and preparing the ice slushies consumed by athletes in Gold Coast – which has an average April temperature of 26c – is expected to be a timely process while he will also prepare the various recovery drinks required by the athletes.
Anticipating a hectic first three to four hours of the day followed by a slight lull and then a busy evening period he insists appropriate nutrition can make a difference.
“In some ways you are at the whim of the organisers in terms of what food they can provide and what we do is take away that element of the unknown”, explains Dane. “We are making sure at the major events nothing is left to chance and the athletes can be prepared as well as possible.”
“For my perspective, I like the challenge of what I do. I reap a lot of satisfaction from pulling off what we planned and receiving positive feedback from the athletes is an additional bonus.”