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Clark Address at PM's Athletes Scholarships

Address at Prime Minister's Athletes Scholarships Award Ceremony

It is entirely appropriate that we should be here at St Cuthbert's College today to present a new round of Prime Ministers Scholarships to our high performing athletes.

St Cuthbert's has a fine reputation for providing a wide range of sporting opportunities for young women, a history of achievement in sport at both regional and national level, and a commitment to providing high quality facilities and support to their athletes.

Providing support to athletes is what the Prime Minister's Athlete Scholarship programme is all about.

Our government established the scholarships six years ago because we believed that the pressures on young athletes were too great, and were preventing them reaching their full potential.

Many athletes are rising to their peak performance at a time when they also need to be studying for higher qualifications. Trying to train, and study, and have enough money to live on is a tall order - and something has to give.

These scholarships help relieve the financial pressure so that the athletes can focus better on training and study.

That should not only help boost our sporting achievements, but also help set our athletes up for the years beyond being at the top of their sporting code.

Sporting achievement is important to New Zealand - we love the success and fame our top sportsmen and women bring us across the sporting codes.

All our successful sportspeople are role models. Their achievements help inspire others to strive to do the best they can, applying effort, determination, and stamina to pursuit of their personal goals.

Our sportsmen and women are also evidence of the benefits of leading healthy lifestyles.

We don't expect most New Zealanders to put in hours of physical training, but if every New Zealander did thirty minutes of moderate physical activity a day, 5 times a week, and ate healthier food, we would face a lot fewer health problems as a nation.

This is a busy time of the year in the sporting calendar, and it is worth highlighting some of the upcoming events involving our athletes:

- The All Blacks have had a very promising start to the Tri Nations, and have already retained The Bledisloe Cup

- The New Zealand rowers are currently in Europe, aiming to repeat last year's performance of 4 gold medals at the World Rowing Championships in England, starting on 20 August

- The Wheel Blacks have just won the wheelchair rugby equivalent of the Bledisloe Cup. Next month they will contest the World Wheelchair Rugby Championships in Christchurch

- The New Zealand men's hockey team are off to Germany to compete in the World Cup. None of the players can be here tonight because they are playing a warm-up game at Lloyd Elsmore park - so if you're got nothing planned after the presentations tonight you might want to go along and catch the second half

- The Black Ferns will be defending their Women's Rugby World Cup title in Canada in September

- Our top triathletes will be battling it out at the World Triathlon Championships in Switzerland

- And last, but not least, in October, the Silver Ferns will be out to show the Aussies that that match in Sydney was an aberration, and that Australia are still the second best team in the world.

Many of these sports are represented here tonight. To all those who are preparing to compete on the world stage - I wish you all the very best. I know you will do your very best to make Kiwi audience watching at home very proud.

I also acknowledge the work of SPARC and the Academy of Sport to make this scholarship programme a success.

To all those being presented with a scholarship, make the most of it to help you realise your full potential.

Congratulations on your achievements to date. I wish you every success for the future.


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