A boisterous home crowd will give added incentive to the Southland representatives at the Oceania Track Cycling Championships in Invercargill in October, especially given a quarter of the New Zealand under-19 team will be from the region.
In what is believed to be the largest ever contingent from Southland to represent the country at the event, five of the 20 riders on the team will be looking to bring home a medal against the best under-19 track cyclists in Oceania.
The five Southlanders selected for the team are identical twins Natalie and Tyla Green, of Winton, and Navarh Brotherston, Mitchel Fitzimons and Jessica Spencer from Invercargill.
Each will compete across a variety of disciplines during the three-day event at the SIT Zero Fees Velodrome, which includes 40 events across elite and under-19 categories for men and women.
Tyla Green said she was looking forward to competing in front of her home crowd and getting a chance to see just how far she and her teammates had improved since last competing at the Oceania Championships.
“(The) competition is pretty fierce. Aussies race completely different and it’s never easy for us. It’s a good experience at the top level and is much quicker than our racing here. Last year was a really good eye opener to see who we would be racing in the future if we continue, so this year it’ll be really cool just to see how much we’ve improved for Natalie, Navarh and myself.”
Head coach of the New Zealand Oceania under-19 cycling team and Invercargill local Sid Cumming said the selection of five Southland riders showed the cycling development programme was strong in the region.
He said the programme had been ongoing for three to five years and was showing significant gains, with an additional two Southland-based riders Emily Paterson and Conor Shearing set to also compete at the Junior Cycling World Championships in Germany in August.
“There is a pretty good chance that if these guys perform, keep improving and perform at the level they can perform at, some of them will make junior worlds next year. So that progression is carrying on. Then we’ve got the next group coming through.”
Cumming, who this week was nominated for Coach of the Year at the ILT Southland Sports Awards, said the key development area for the riders ahead of the Oceania Championships would be team bonding and personal improvement.
“We don’t want them wound up about winning. We get them all wound up about competing at a high level as they can. And if we can do that, more than likely they’ll get the wins. But it’s just trying to take that away. It’s a development thing more so than it is a winning thing.”
The Oceania Track Cycling Championships take place between October 16 and 19 at SIT Zero Fees Velodrome in Invercargill.
This article was originally written for The Advocate. You can read the published version here