Triathlon: The challenge of the underfunded athlete

By Ben Guild

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Courteney Lowe, left, and Anneke Jenkins chill out at Mount Maunganui's Main Beach. Photo/John Borren
Courteney Lowe, left, and Anneke Jenkins chill out at Mount Maunganui's Main Beach. Photo/John Borren

It has become the familiar dance of the sports writer - interviewing a talented young athlete who needs funding but who is bashful about asking to thank sponsors or appeal for more.

Likely, it has always been this way in a country that spits out world class athletes quicker than it does the mechanisms to fund them.

After all, there is only so much pokies money to go around, and, if you believe the ghost stories about some of those arrangements, the cash doesn't necessarily always make it all the way round.

So it was that an otherwise charming chat with Anneke Jenkins turned a touch uncomfortable at Main Beach on Friday morning, as the rising young triathlete somewhat reluctantly broached the topic of dollars and cents.

"Courteney Lowe and I are working together to try to get sponsorship as a team," said Jenkins.

"Can we make it about that?"

When told it could be interesting to examine the economics of an essentially amateur athlete with professional aspirations, Jenkins made her pitch.

"Courteney and I are good friends, we both went to Otumoetai College, I was swimming and she was cycling, our sport connection was what led to the friendship but we also share a number of interests such as yoga, organic food, baking and we are both driven to get to the top in our sports and we help each other along the way.

"We're both aiming for Olympic gold and to go as far as we can. We are both from Tauranga and we'd love to support a local business and work as a partnership internationally.

"She trains in America and races for a team over there and I'll be in San Diego and in France. We'll be racing all round the world and it will all be televised all over the world, so the results always come back to New Zealand and the Bay.

"We are looking for anyone who can help us really."

It is not until you ask some of these athletes who has supported them that you understand how much support they need - and get.

Red Bike Mount Maunganui made a contribution, SHARE Insurance helped with damaged or lost equipment and Seconi came to the party with plenty of running shoes.

AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd, too, did more than his fair share.

"He bought my bike and helped with my flights to Europe. He owns the restaurant, Phil's Place, and I could not have done it without him."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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