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Cosgrove: South Island PM Sport Scholarships

29 May, 2008
Cosgrove congratulates South Island recipients of PM Sport Scholarships at Christchurch ceremony

Venue: Millennium Hotel Cathedral Room, 14 Cathedral Square, Christchurch

Time: 6.30pm 29 May 2008

The New Zealand Academy of Sport South Island’s Board Chairman Peter Cox, Chief Executive Kereyn Smith, and Board Members Selwyn Maister and Michael Sidey; John Reid, Manager of the Pathways team from the government agency Sport and Recreation New Zealand; representatives from regional and national sport organisations; recipients of the 2008 Prime Minister’s Sport Scholarships recipients; friends and supporters; members of the media; ladies and gentlemen.

To everyone who has received a scholarship here today - athletes, coaches, support team members, officials - congratulations! As a Cantabrian, it gives me special pride to see so many people from this region who have worked so hard and made the grade for these awards. Let me assure you, it is no mean feat.

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. In order to win a scholarship, athletes, coaches, officials and support team members have to 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 in 2008.

Being a Prime Minister’s Sport Scholarship recipient is recognition that you are achieving at the elite level of sport and have the potential to go onto even greater things in both your sporting and academic careers.

I want to acknowledge the huge amount of hard work and commitment that all of you here today are making to your sport. Your contributions to New Zealand sport, as athletes, coaches, officials and support team members are immense.

Talent alone doesn’t get you to the top in sport – it also takes persistence and sheer hard work. It then requires even more work to stay at the top. You need total commitment and focus, and a team of equally dedicated and skilled people providing support.

You have all made sacrifices. While your mates are sleeping in, or staying out socialising, you, and your coach are at the track, on the court, in the pool, or pounding the pavement.

It is a major challenge for athletes to throw themselves fully into training and competing while also undertaking tertiary study. The Prime Minister’s Sport Scholarship helps lessen those financial burdens and frees you up to continue to train and perform to the highest level in your sport.

Heptathlete Rebecca Wardell of the Old Boys – United club is one of the recipients of the Prime Minister’s scholarship.

But what she has done is recently head offshore to attempt to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. She has shown a huge commitment to athletics for several years and since 2001 has represented New Zealand at the World Championships, the Commonwealth Games and the World Universities Games. With the assistance of the Prime Minister’s scholarship, Rebecca is also undertaking a Masters of Engineering in Transportation.

Rebecca is typical of dedicated athletes trying to juggle very busy lives. The Prime Minister’s Sport Scholarship helps athletes managing the balancing act between pursuing sporting excellence and progressing academic careers.

To the coaches, officials and support staff, you have a big role in shaping and defining athlete’s careers. It is critical that you receive the support needed to get the development opportunities necessary to keep you and your athletes at the top. You are embarking on some extremely interesting professional development opportunities and the Prime Minister’s scholarship programme will assist you with those.

For example, Prime Minister Support Team Scholarship recipient Matt Ingram is the lead biomechanist for the New Zealand men’s and women’s hockey teams as well as being a performance analyst for the New Zealand Academy of Sport South Island.

Matt is using his scholarship to visit the Malaysian Institute of Sport to look at the delivery of biomechanical and technical support services, as well as gauging international best practice on hitting penalty corners. Things have certainly progressed from my day when you simply whacked the ball as hard as you could and hoped it would go in!

Another Christchurch-based Prime Minister Support Team Scholarship recipient is Malcolm Humm. Malcolm is the case manager and sport science coordinator for Paralympics New Zealand as well as being Team Manager for the Paralympic Games in Beijing this year.

His scholarship is enabling Malcolm to better prepare the team for Beijing by attending events, networking with international peers and attending Paralympic conferences in order to gain insight into how best to support New Zealand’s athletes.

It is projects such as these that help New Zealanders become world leaders in sport and recreation. One of the advantages of living in a small country is our ability to share information. I encourage recipients of the coach, official and support team scholarships to pass on what they have learnt in their sport or area of expertise.

Tonight we recognise our elite athletes and those who support them. But let us take a moment to also thank those people who first got these athletes on the road to success when they were starting out. I am talking about our volunteers, including mums and dads, who are willing to give up their time after work and on the weekends to help our children develop a passion and skills they need in their chosen sport. Without that grassroots support, our athletes would never attain the outstanding results that they do.

The work undertaken by volunteers covers everything from coaching the littlies league, through to holding a fundraising cake stall, through to spending their evenings balancing the local club’s financial books and chasing up club members fees. Too often this work can seem to go unnoticed, and I personally offer my sincere thanks for your vital contribution to sport and recreation in this country.

Some of you here tonight are preparing for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and others will be planning for various world championships, the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics or even the 2012 London Olympics.

The Prime Minister’s Scholarships and the other government support and services SPARC and the New Zealand Academy of Sport can provide, will help you achieve your goals.

I wish you all the best as you continue your journey in the world of high performance sport. Canterbury, and indeed the rest of the country, is right behind you.

Congratulations.

ENDS

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