Cy­cling de­serves more recog­ni­tion

SPORTS TALK BY JOSEPH ROMANOS

Auckland City Harbour News - - CLASSIFIED -

Are our track cy­clists prophets with­out hon­our in their own coun­try?

They’ve been at it again at the world champs in Paris over the past few days, win­ning so many medals that New Zealand now fig­ures among ma­jor track cy­cling pow­ers.

At home, though, they’re largely un­ap­pre­ci­ated.

Whereas Rob Wad­dell, Mahe Drys­dale, Hamish Bond and Eric Mur­ray, the Evers-Swindell sis­ters and other row­ing champs have be­come house­hold names, the cy­clists fly un­der the radar.

As I write, the 2015 champs are still in progress, but al­ready Matt Archibald (1km time trial, bronze), Ed­die Dawkins (keirin, sil­ver), Pi­eter Bulling, Alex Frame, Dy­lan Kennett, Marc Ryan (team pur­suit, gold) and Dawkins, Sam Web­ster and Ethan Mitchell (team sprint, sil­ver) have won medals.

The team sprint­ers missed gold on a tech­ni­cal­ity af­ter win­ning the fi­nal.

Yet how many New Zealand sports fans would know, say, Marc Ryan by sight?

The 32-year-old from Ti­maru has won five world champs medals, in­clud­ing a gold, plus two Olympic medals; or Ed­die Dawkins, who has won five world champs medals, in­clud­ing a gold; Simon van Velthooven won an Olympic medal in the keirin plus three world champs medals in the 1km time trial; Alison Shanks won six world champs medals, in­clud­ing two golds in the in­di­vid­ual pur­suit.

And so it goes on – Sam Web­ster, Ethan Mitchell, Jesse Ser­gent, the great Greg Hen­der­son, Aaron Gate, West­ley Gough and Lau­ren El­lis have all won three or more world champs medals. Hay­den Roul­ston won a world champs sil­ver, plus two Olympic sil­vers.

Of our lead­ing cy­clists, only Sarah Ulmer, a bril­liant in­di­vid­ual pur­suiter, has be­come a gen­uine na­tional sports iden­tity, fol­low­ing her world and Olympic golds in 2004.

For years New Zealand sent teams to world track cy­cling champs and bat­tled against the cy­cling su­per pow­ers of Europe.

Fi­nally, in 1990, Karen Hol­l­i­day cracked it when she won a gold in the points race.

But not un­til 1999 did we win an­other world champs cy­cling medal at se­nior level.

That year An­thony Pe­den (keirin, sil­ver) and Ulmer (points race, bronze) earned medals.

Since then our pace has picked up to the point where on world champs medal ta­bles, New Zealand reg­u­larly fin­ishes among the top six.

Gary An­der­son won New Zealand’s first Olympic cy­cling medal, a bronze in the in­di­vid­ual pur­suit in 1992.

It wasn’t un­til Ulmer’s gold in 2004 that an­other New Zealan­der made the Olympic podium.

Since then, though, we’ve won four more. Such suc­cesses, in a tough in­ter­na­tional sport, have been largely over­looked at home.

For ex­am­ple, in the Hal­berg Awards since 1991, row­ing has won the supreme award nine times, the sports­man seven, sportswoman once and team nine.

Cy­cling, a com­pa­ra­ble sport on the world stage, has won the supreme award once, the sportswoman twice and has not won the sports­man or team.

I don’t mean to pick on row­ing. In fact, I greatly ad­mire the row­ers’ con­sis­tent ex­cel­lence. It’s just that the sport is of sim­i­lar size.

My feel­ing is that Ki­wis just don’t un­der­stand how dif­fi­cult and com­pet­i­tive top track cy­cling is.

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