Rio Olympics 2016: Our Kiwis in Rio earned their keep

By David Leggat

HPSNZ boss Alex Baumann.
HPSNZ boss Alex Baumann.

Exceeding their Olympic medal target hasn't tempted New Zealand's sports paymasters to push the boat out in their predictions for the Tokyo Games in 2020.

High Performance Sport New Zealand nominated 14 as their Rio target; New Zealand won 18 medals, four gold, nine silver and five bronze.

HPSNZ boss Alex Baumann says the aim for Tokyo is 14-plus, but qualified that as a moveable target until debriefs with all the sports have been completed and funding plans are put in place.

While various organisations were tipping New Zealand to win more than 20 medals in Rio, Baumann defended the call of 14, even when things were slower than expected through the first week in Rio.

"It's hard. A lot of people were saying our 14 was conservative, but you stress it's difficult to get medals," the former Olympic champion swimmer said.

He's chuffed with the final number and, while pointing out the seasoned athletes, such as rowers Mahe Drysdale and Eric Murray and Hamish Bond, achieved success, the younger medal winners, like athletes Tom Walsh and Eliza McCartney, and sailors Alex Maloney and Molly Meech "showed we're in a good position for 2020".

"No doubt we'll have some retirements and, what we're trying to create, is a sustainable system where we can produce at each Olympics."

At the Los Angeles Games of 1984, Canadian Baumann arrived as world champion in both the 200m and 400m individual medleys.

He not only won gold in both, but set new world records in each event.

That's partly why he has high admiration for the likes of paddler Lisa Carrington, single sculler Drysdale and 49er sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke.

"It is intense. The expectations were that they would win, there was enormous pressure and they handled it really well."

The breadth of New Zealand's medal haul, across nine sports, was significant, Baumann said.

We're in a good position for 2020. [We're trying to create a system] where we can produce at each Olympics.
HPSNZ boss Alex Baumann

History suggests to win, say, 16 medals, eight sports need to produce them. How HPSNZ disperse funds in December will have that in mind.

But it's a tricky balancing act. The organisation can fund a sport in its entirety, or a specific campaign, or an individual.

Baumann doesn't think the spread of success in Rio will make HPSNZ's job any trickier, working out how to spend the taxpayer dollars.

"We have to have that flexibility [in how to fund sports]. For example we have supported [canoe slalomers] Luuka Jones and Mike Dawson for four years and hired a coach from the UK. If we're not necessarily supporting a sport, we can put a campaign around [an individual]."

Baumann acknowledged that silver medal-winning trap shooter Natalie Rooney had not been well supported, receiving just $20,000 this year out of the four-year leadup to a Games. That may change.

Baumann said four criteria will be used in assessing funding:

Past performance, notably, but not solely, in Rio.

Potential, looking at the athletes in each sports' system for 2020 and beyond.

The quality of their high performance programme, what coaching and training requirements, and athlete support services are needed;

And the individual context of each sport. Team sports are clearly more expensive than individual, which comes into consideration.

HPSNZ shelled out $172.6 million over the last four years. Baumann confirmed that figure "will be a little bit more" in the next cycle.

And he admitted the three tier one sports, rowing cycling and yachting - one of whom went gangbusters in Rio while the other two disappointed - could be trimmed by one, or enlarged, possibly to accommodate athletics, which returned four medals.

- NZ Herald

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