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Wellington’s sporting talent: our future leaders

Wellington’s sporting talent recognised and encouraged to be our future leaders

Wellington’s most gifted young athletes were presented with certificates at a function on 23 August hosted by Mayor Justin Lester as a result of their involvement in the Wellington City Council funded ‘Sport Talent Development Programme’.

The programme, developed by Sport Wellington, aims to assist regional sporting organisations to develop their talent programmes so that more young Wellingtonians have the opportunity to develop the skills and behaviours that are required to be successful in the high performance sports environment.

150 athletes, parents, coaches, sports administrators and council officials attended the function held at the ASB Sports Centre in Kilbirnie to recognise the eight sports involved in the 2017 programme; Athletics, Fencing, Golf, Hockey, Netball, Rowing, Swimming and Volleyball.

Mayor Lester said, “You are the top 1% of our athletes. We know that it’s not easy transitioning from community sport to this level, it happens by hard work and long hours….You’ve made your families and friends proud, the community is proud. We’re proud of you and we’re right behind you.”

Sue Geale, General Manager of Netball said, “Wellington is the only city in New Zealand to run a programme like this funded by a City Council. We’re lucky to have it. Thank you to Wellington City Council and Sport Wellington.”

A highlight of the function was an interview by Newstalk ZB’s Jason Pine with three elite athletes who have already gone through the Sport Talent Development programme and are competing at the international level. James Preston (Athletics), Danielle Watson (Canoe sprint) and Lewis Clareburt (Swimming) gave insights into their own journeys, aspirations and having to deal with the unexpected.

For James Preston, middle distance runner, being told by a coach that he could do well was the turning point for him to take athletics seriously. Two years later, he ranked in the top 15 for the under 20 grade, 800m at the 2016 World Junior Track and Field Champs in Poland.

When asked about challenges, Preston spoke about the disappointment of not being able to compete this year due to an injury saying, “It was a massive challenge for me because I’m not very good at holding myself back…but I had to think about the bigger picture.”

Danielle Watson (Canoe Sprinter) talked about having to change her event three weeks prior to Junior Worlds due to the withdrawal of her K2 partner diagnosed with a heart condition. “It was really hard because we were going so well, our times were up there in the top three people in the world … but I was really excited to take the K1 on.”

Watson then placed 3rd equal with a Chinese paddler in the semi-finals of the Junior Worlds, resulting in a race-off to determine the A finalists. “It was an amazing experience and something that will probably never happen again because it’s so rare; apparently it’s only happened once in the last twenty years.”

Swimmer, Lewis Clareburt, just back from winning seven medals at the Youth Commonwealth Games in the Bahamas, has enjoyed getting to know people from all around the world.

When asked by Jason Pine about the challenges of being a swimmer, “Being up at the crack of dawn, doing laps, you’re alone, day after day, how challenging is that?” Clareburt replied, “You can’t really do it without your friends, all my friends at Capital Swim club, thanks to them it makes it easy for us.”

Despite losing his carded status from Swimming New Zealand in March due to funding cuts, Clareburt is looking forward to the future. “You have to pick yourself back up. I had to remind myself that I’m still growing, and I’m only eighteen.”

When asked what lies ahead, Clareburt said, “I’m currently ranked 7th in the Commonwealth and to qualify the top 6 get through so I’ve got this year to make it. Tokyo is definitely on my mind too.”

For Watson, the World Champs are every year but the Olympics are her dream, while Preston is looking to get back to full fitness. He said, “The Commonwealth Games is potentially still on the cards depending on how my fitness progresses.”

As MC for the function, Councillor Simon Woolf encouraged the attendees that although competing is their main focus at the moment, to also consider the other numerous pathways in the future of their sport – volunteering, officials, coaching, administrators, umpiring, and that leadership is a key quality they’re learning through their sport. He commented that Mayor Lester had been a great sportsman, and now he’s Mayor.

A key aim of the Sport Wellington Performance Hub programmes, which the Talent Development Programme is part of, is to ‘nurture successful people’, not only for their sporting success but for their development as competent, capable, members of society who are leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators.


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