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Cosgrove: Prime Minister's Scholarships

Hon Clayton Cosgrove
Minister for Sport and Recreation

Embargoed until 6.30pm, 16 April 2008 Speech

Prime Minister's Scholarships – presentation to recipients from throughout the North Island

Venue: Baradene College, Auckland
Time: 6.30pm, 16 April 2008

The Chairman of the government agency Sport and Recreation New Zealand, John Wells; the New Zealand Academy of Sport North Island’s Chief Executive Peter Pfitzinger and Board Members, David Appleby, Judith McKay, and Warwick Nicoll; Award winners; supporters; special guests; ladies and gentlemen.

To everyone who has received a scholarship, athletes, coaches, officials – congratulations. Being a recipient of a Prime Minister’s Scholarship is a huge achievement.

I want to acknowledge the huge amount of hard work and commitment that all of you here today have made to your sport. Your contributions to New Zealand sport, as athletes, coaches, officials and support team members are significant and valued, at both a national and a community level.

New Zealanders are passionate about our sport. We are a great sporting nation, and a nation of participants.

On any given weekend take a look around the sports fields, the courts, the tracks and the water-ways of any community in this country, and you will see our children and young people, as well as adults, out there having a go.

We are equally passionate as sporting fans.

The victories, and the losses, of our local and national teams are widely felt and our celebrations and support is all encompassing – for example think of the huge turnout from our communities for the Americas Cup parades, the tickertape parade to celebrate Michael Campbell's US Golf Open victory, as well as the community support in Christchurch to welcome home the All Blacks last year after the 2007 Rugby World Cup.

I think the reason Kiwis are such strong supporters of our sportsmen and sportswomen is because, as a sporting nation, we know the effort it takes to get to the top and to stay there. It takes sheer hard work, as well as talent.

You need total commitment and focus, and a team of equally dedicated and skilled people to help you to achieve at the high performance level. It also involves personal sacrifices. While your mates are sleeping in, or staying out socialising, you, and your coach are at the track, on the court, or in the pool.

Officials also give up their time to travel with teams and athletes, or to attend weekend training camps to keep themselves ahead of the competition. Clearly you are all highly dedicated people and no doubt juggling very busy lives as you manage the competing demands of sport, professional development, academic pursuits and other responsibilities.

And these awards make a real difference to your ability to do so. To the athletes, the Prime Minister’s Scholarships aim to support you to pursue tertiary study while also continuing with your elite level sport development.

Training to be a high performance athlete is hard enough, and to study at the tertiary level at the same time is extremely demanding. However study should never be the sacrificial lamb to sporting success. Gaining a qualification is important, as it will provide you with opportunities and successes beyond sport.

The government recognises the value of this investment to our Kiwi athletes.

The scholarships also aim to support officials, coaches and people engaged in sport development to continue contributing their skills and expertise to the success of athletes and the sector. It is critical that you are supported and get the development opportunities necessary to keep you and your athletes at the top.

As many of you are aware, this year the Prime Minister’s Scholarships have been closely aligned to the government's High Performance Strategy, which means the bar has been set higher than in previous years.

This means the investment has been specifically targeted towards those athletes who demonstrate a high probability of sustained success. So it is added credit to all of you here today who have met the tougher competition and higher standards required to win scholarships this year.

No doubt some of you will be preparing for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and others will be planning for the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games or the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, or even the 2012 London Olympics.

The Prime Minister’s Scholarships and the government's other support and services through Sport and Recreation New Zealand and the New Zealand Academy of Sport will help you achieve your goals.

However, it is primarily your determination and commitment to excellence that will get you there. Once again congratulations to everyone and I encourage you to take hold of this opportunity. New Zealand is behind you 100 percent.

I wish you all the best as you continue your journey in the competitive world of high performance sport, and I will be following your progress with much interest.


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