Golf: Olympics the greatest goal for Ko

By Michael Donaldson

Lydia Ko's whirlwind return home to defend her New Zealand Women's Open title has brought her Olympic dream more clearly into focus.

On Wednesday, ahead of this week's Open which starts on Friday at Clearwater Resort in Christchurch, The world No 1 got a sneak preview of the Lonsdale Cup, presented annually to the Kiwi athlete or team who made the most outstanding contribution to Olympic or Commonwealth sport. With golf in the Olympics this year, she became eligible for the trophy, which will be formally presented on Friday.

Ko's results in 2015 - five tournament wins including her first major - were one consideration behind the award but the other was upholding the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect. Ko, 18, is the first golfer to win the award.

In posing with the Lonsdale Cup alongside New Zealand Olympic team chef de mission Rob Waddell, Ko had a chance to discuss her gold medal hopes with the former rowing champion.

"The Olympics is my biggest goal for this year," Ko said. "Ever since they announced golf would be in the Olympics I said 'hey. I'm going to get myself on that team'. For any athlete to say you're an Olympian is a whole, new, proud feeling and to represent your country on such a stage is going to make it a pretty special week. Even on the LPGA Tour there's so much excitement and hype around it."

Ko went as far as saying, for this year at least, an Olympic gold would trump a major.

"This year it is for sure because it's the first time the women will play at the Olympics so for me it will be the top priority."

The excitement around a potential gold medal also pushed aside concerns over the Zika virus which is plaguing Brazil, where 1.5 million people are infected and some 4000 infants are suffering microencephaly which has been linked to the mosquito-borne virus.

"You do think about it and do worry about it but we've still got a few months before then and hopefully it will be cleared out by then. We're more excited than worried about all that."

She enjoyed speaking to Waddell about the Games and what how athletes were doing in their preparation.

"It's great to meet someone whose been there and done that. One of the cool things about Olympics is you get do get to see people outside of golf - in golf you see people in the golf industry all the time: media, sponsors and the like."

The New Zealand women's open, co-sanctioned by the Ladies European Tour and the Australian LPGA, runs Friday to Sunday when Ko will be looking for her third title.

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