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Greg Boyed interviews Barbara Kendall

Sunday 12 August, 2012

Greg Boyed interviews Barbara Kendall

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Q + A
Greg Boyed Interviews Barbara Kendall

GREG Olympics 2012 in London have been good for New Zealand, to say the least, maybe great, with five golds, including Lisa Carrington’s blistering performance in kayak last night. It’s 13 medals in all. We won our 100th medal with Blair Tuke and Peter Burling’s silver in sailing’s 49er class, and their medals were fittingly presented by former New Zealand boardsailing great and three-time Olympic medallist Barbara Kendall, now a member of the International Olympic Committee. Barbara Kendall won gold at Barcelona in 1992, part of a career that spanned five Olympics and a full set of medals – a gold, silver and a bronze. Barbara Kendall, hello, from London. It’s been a great Olympics from this end of the world. How would you rate it? Best ever?

BARBARA KENDALL – International Olympic Committee Member
Oh, it’s been amazing just being part of it, and the English have done such an incredible job of this Olympic Games. Every sports event has run completely smoothly. Transport – there was lots of glitches in the beginning. They thought there was going to be, but it’s just been a really amazing Games.

GREG The New Zealand performance – what, five gold medals – that would have to be something we would have really only hoped for in our wildest dreams, wouldn’t it?

BARBARA Well, you know, if you look the New Zealanders’ performance, it’s absolutely incredible, considering how professional sport has come. They’re saying that Seoul as the last time that we got that many gold medals, but sport has become so much more professional. There’s so many more countries now pouring a lot more money into sport, and New Zealand has done incredibly well.

GREG The water sports are where we’re doing well. The kayaking saw Lisa Carrington last night, our rowing guys, of course, just blitzing it. Can we ever hope to broaden it out? Of course, your own history as well, obviously, on the water. Can we hope to broaden out to more track-and-field things, to more events?

BARBARA Sorry, there’s a really loud guy right beside me, and I’m having difficulty hearing you. Can you just say the last question again?

GREG Absolutely. We’re just saying that the water sports are where we’re dominating, of course. Lisa Carrington last night and our rowers are doing so well. Can we ever hope to broaden the winning in the medals out?

BARBARA Well, you know, it’s pretty difficult because it all comes down to developmental pathways for all the sports, and it’s a bit of the ‘chicken and the egg’ type scenario. You know, if you don’t have the programmes in place and the funding in place to be able to help young athletes and kids come through developmental pathways, you’re never going to get those results. And we know that it takes eight years of an athlete doing that sport full-time and sacrificing a lot to be able to get there. And if we don’t have the systems in place for those athletes, we’re going to be— you know, it’s really difficult to develop different sports. But I’m pretty stoked that the water sports are leading the way.

GREG Yeah, of course, but Karapiro is the home base, of course, for rowing. The infrastructure, no one would argue, is probably about the best we’ve got in the country, you know, putting aside things like rugby. Is that the model more sports should be working from?

BARBARA Absolutely. You know, now I think that there might be a bit more of a push to have a water-sports centre in Auckland for the sailing and for the kayak, because what it does is when you get a high-performance-sport environment, you get all like-minded people together and they feed off each other and create this energy and environment that makes you want to achieve. And that’s what they’ve done in Karapiro, and it’s a great model to show how it actually does work making these high-performance centres. And because we are a small nation, that’s the only way we’re going to be able to do it is by actually putting these facilities in one place and the high-performance athletes come and they can base themselves in these places.

GREG Looking at the other side of the coin, though, rowing wins, so rowing has a base, rowing gets money, so rowing wins. The other sports don’t win, they think, ‘Nah, we’re not going to pour the money into it.’ It comes down to dollars, doesn’t it, Barbara?

BARBARA Well, it does too, but, you know, within these dollars there’s also talent identification, so every now and again you might find an athlete that has an X factor. Look at Valerie. You know, she has that X factor. Cycling – there’s a lot of cyclists there that have the X factor. Sarah Walker – you know, she’s one out of a bag. But if they don’t start putting development programmes in place so we can find the next Sarah Walker, find the next Valerie Adams, you know, we won’t have it. It’s a bit like what happened in windsurfing. You know, we didn’t find the next Barbara Kendall, and now there’s no windsurfing at the Olympic Games. So, yes, it does take money, but it takes talent identification also, and then it takes a great partnership with a coach and also a high-performance support structure around those athletes to bring them up.

GREG Tens of millions of dollars and obviously a big feel-good factor for the athletes there are for us back home, but is it worth it, though, in your opinion?

BARBARA Absolutely. You know, feeling proud to be a New Zealander is what— you even put a dollar value on that – what it does for a nation. And, you know, people go to work with a smile on their face, and when people go to work with a smile on their face, they’re going to be more passionate about what they do. You can be inspired by these athletes and put it into your own whatever life that you’re doing, and that will just— it just makes a better— I don’t know. I love being a New Zealander and watching New Zealanders achieve on the world stage. It makes you feel proud, it makes you want to stay in New Zealand and, you know, it’s something that maybe you can’t put a dollar value on because it’s— you know, it’s an amazing thing what happens. And, you know, if we’ve got the money, let’s put it in that area because it does inspire New Zealanders to go out there and do the best that they can.

GREG On the other side of the ledger, of course, we’ve all heard about the failure to enter a couple of the athletes in actual events. How did that happen? How can we ensure it never ever happens again?

BARBARA You know, it’s a human error, and mistakes do happen, you know? Everyone makes mistakes. I went over the start line early in a couple of races. I should know better than that. You know, lots of things like that do happen. We’ve got to look beyond and look at the positives of that, because we know Valerie probably never threw as far as the Belarus girl before, so we’ve got to keep it all in perspective. And, you know, if we look at the positives from that, Valerie’s going to come back really hungry for the next four years, and maybe that’s the motivation and the passion that will keep her around for the next four years. So, you know, everything— every bad thing, there’s always a good on the other side of it.

GREG All right, there’s been plenty of them, but for you there as an Olympian yourself, favourite moment of the Games?

BARBARA Lisa Carrington. (laughs) She is a beautiful person from the inside out. What an amazing story. She’s so humble, and her life is never going to be the same again. And so, you know, watching Lisa really reminds me of when I won my gold medal back in ’92 and you sort of have no idea what you’ve just done, and then life just turns to chaos. And she’ll handle it really well because she is really a beautiful person.

GREG Fantastic. Barbara Kendall from London, thanks so much for your time.

BARBARA Pleasure.

© Scoop Media

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