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Cycling: I vowed it would never happen again - Webster

Sam Webster was among the first four cyclists named for the Rio Olympics. Photo / Getty
Sam Webster was among the first four cyclists named for the Rio Olympics. Photo / Getty

Since his London Olympics omission, track cyclist Sam Webster has trained most days so he would never feel as devastated again.

Today at Cambridge, the 24-year-old's devotion proved justified when he was confirmed alongside lead-out rider Ethan Mitchell and finisher Eddie Dawkins in New Zealand's team sprint for Rio.

The trio have earned two gold and two silver world championship medals since the 2012 Games.

Natasha Hansen was named as the sole women's sprinter. There is room to add another female to make up a team sprint later in the campaign. Another men's sprinter might also bolster the ranks, depending on how New Zealand structure their riders across the endurance and sprint disciplines.

Webster and Dawkins are also likely to contest the Keirin, while Webster and Mitchell are candidates to race the individual sprint.

Webster missed selection four years ago due to brutal criteria which often see track teams double up athletes across disciplines.

This time, as an incumbent world champion from last month's meet, also in London, Webster needn't have held any fears.

"It's something I vowed would never happen again," Webster said of missing the last Olympics. "Now I'm able to enjoy it with my eyes set on August to be in peak shape [at Rio]. The motivation can be set in stone.

"We appreciate the faith shown in us so we get an unimpeded preparation. Today it's great to celebrate in our Olympic polos but, if anything, the hardest work begins now."
Webster upped his commitment post-2012.

"I made sure I was there [training or preparing] every day and putting a focus on staying fit and healthy so I didn't catch any bugs and I could train more days than other people.

"I changed how I approached training and, as much as it [the London decision] hurt, it made me into the athlete I am now."

Cycling New Zealand high performance director Mark Elliott said the sprint trio would be crucial to his wider programme's pursuit of five Rio medals.

"These guys have shown the most consistency at world championships when it really matters, and they now have to do that at Rio.

"Selection's never easy, but this one was based on the quality of the riders and the potential we see in them. They did all the required background work."

Elliott admitted on occasion that involved keeping empty buckets trackside at training for potential vomiting.

"That's the commitment these guys make on a daily basis. They're in an important training phase at the moment. They're giving it to themselves and they're committed to success. There's no holding back."

Webster said while the programme involved such dedication, it was hardly a sacrifice.

"It's just about making choices. I've moved from Auckland to Cambridge, and you might forego a few social engagements and potential relationships because you choose to pursue your sport, but I don't want to be doing anything else at the moment. It's my passion and it's helped by a dynamic group around me.

"I always joke we're the same idiots we were when we came out of high school and someone said 'you can go overseas for a bike trip'. We just ran with it. It's hard not to laugh at yourself and think 'how do we get away with doing this for a job?'"

- NZ Herald

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