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2010 Westpac Emerging Talent Finalists Named

2010 Westpac Emerging Talent Finalists Named

Auckland, 21 December 2010 - A multiple world junior shot put record holder and a Commonwealth Games silver medallist are among the four contenders in the running to win a $15,000 Westpac sporting scholarship next year.

Jacko Gill, hit world headlines in July when still aged 15, won the World Junior Athletic Championships (under-20) shot put title with a throw of 20.76m and Gareth Kean, who became the highest ranked New Zealand swimmer with his silver medal in the 200m backstroke final in Delhi, lifting him to No.7 in the world, are two of the finalists. They are joined by Tyler Bleyendaal, who captained the New Zealand Under-20 side to victory at the 2010 IRB Junior World Rugby Championships and Julia Edward, who with partner Lucy Strack, made the final of the women’s lightweight double scull at Lake Karapiro, as the finalists for the 2010 Westpac Emerging Talent Award.

The quartet were among a group of nine outstanding young New Zealand sporting achievers nominated for the award, with the winner to be revealed at the 2010 Westpac Halberg Awards Dinner in Auckland next February. The winner will receive $15,000 cash plus financial planning assistance from a Westpac banking specialist.

The Westpac Emerging Talent Award is designed to identify and reward potential Olympic and World Champions. It is limited to individual athletes who must not have competed at the Olympics or Open World Championship.

The inaugural Westpac Emerging Talent Award winner in 2006 was triathlete Rebecca Spence, followed by Emma Twigg (rowing), Jossi Wells (skiing) and Sam Webster (cycling) last year who won an unprecedented three titles at the under-19 World Track Cycling Championships.

The nine youngsters nominated for the 2010 Westpac Emerging Talent Award were: Julia Edward (rowing), Tyler Bleyendaal (rugby), Harris Thien (kung fu), Stephanie McKenzie (cycling), Levi Sherwood (motocross), Jacko Gill (athletics), Gareth Kean (swimming), Joseph Parker (boxing) and Byron Wells (freeskiing).

Gill has since gone on to win a silver medal in the World Youth Olympics in Singapore where his throw of 22.60m was a world best under-17 and under-16 record for a 5kg shot. Then at the National Secondary Schools Championships in Hastings earlier this month, he threw the shot to a record 23.86m, which also lowered the existing world under-18 record.

Bleyendaal, who comes from Christchurch, was the dominant first five eighth at the IRB World Junior Championships where he scored 28 points in the final. He has also been named as the back-up first five to Dan Carter in the Crusaders Super-15 squad for next year. Aged 19, Edward was the younger of the women’s lightweight double scull which won a silver medal in the World Under-23 Rowing Championships in July before reaching the A final at the 2010 World Rowing Championships, after finishing 3rd in the heat on opening day. Kean was the top ranked 18-year-old swimmer in the 200m backstroke and has improved his world ranking from 38th to 7th.

The Westpac Emerging Talent Voting Academy comprised – Mike Stanley, former NZ Rowing rep and CEO of the Millennium Institute; John Reid, former NZ cricketer and Senior Adviser Talent Development at SPARC; Chris Bullen, former NZ Badminton rep; Martin Toomey, Manager of High Performance at SPARC, Ron Cheatley, one of this country’s most successful elite cycling coaches; Vanessa Paun, SPARC’s Performance Consultant for Talent Identification and Development; Kereyn Smith, CEO at the New Zealand Academy of Sport in the South Island; Mike Chu, NZRU High Performance Coaching Development Manager and Nigel Avery, former Commonwealth weightlifting gold medallist and current General Manager of Sport at the Millennium Institute. Between them they have significant high performance experience.

According to Halberg Trust CEO Steve Hall, the aim of the award “is to identify and assist a young athlete in their quest to become a future Olympic or World Champion and, hopefully, one day win the Halberg Award.”

The Westpac Halberg Awards on Thursday, 10 February 2010, will be televised live by SKY Sport.


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