Departing Cycling NZ boss: Would be foolish to cut funding

By David Leggat

Mark Elliott. Photo / Brett Phibbs.
Mark Elliott. Photo / Brett Phibbs.

Outgoing Cycling New Zealand high performance director Mark Elliott hopes when the next funding round is announced the sport's financial trimming won't be too severe.

Cycling failed to deliver on expectations at the Rio Olympics, winning just a solitary team sprint silver, missing gold by 0.102s and four fourths, well short of what had been anticipated.

Elliott, who has been in the job nine years, announced he is resigning yesterday, and while sports which do not produce what has been anticipated generally get a rough ride from High Performance Sport New Zealand - funding will be revealed next month - he hopes they'll see upsides in the sport.

As one of three tier one sports, cycling received $26.4 million in total over the last four years. Only rowing, similarly disappointing in Rio, received more, $32 million. Sailing, the third tier one sport, by contrast had a bumper Games.

"There are good things in place, and they don't disappear," Elliott, 49, said.

"Sport is a business and business is always going to look at products coming through.

"The thing is we've got a junior team that dominated at the track world champs (nine medals, four gold), we've got a whole lot of athletes who went to Rio but didn't perform to their true potential in a number of areas, who really strive to give their best and they're young enough to be there next time.

"I hope HPSNZ looks at us as an entity that has potential for multiple medals in Tokyo (the 2020 Olympics).

"You've got to understand if you don't deliver, haircuts can happen, but at the same time it would be foolish to do that with a sport which has shown it can win multiple world titles."

Walking away from a sport in the shadow of an Olympics is nothing new for Elliott. He was involved with triathlon at the time of its greatest success, the 2004 Games in Athens when Hamish Carter and Bevan Docherty won gold and silver.

Elliott was also coaching Docherty but had an appealing offer to help set up the winter sports programme.

"Even though we'd had the most incredible success we could ever have imagined, it was still the right time to move on.

"I've had three Olympics and two full Olympic cycles in the sport and it's time to make that move."

He's not sure whether he would have taken the same step had the riders delivered the medal success which had been hoped for - "it's hard to know because we didn't have it" - but he admitted a gut feeling comes into these decisions.

Elliott played a straight bat to suggestions there had been a falling out with CNZ in the post-Rio washup.

"There's always dissatisfaction when you don't get performances, and that's to be expected. The main thing about the programme is the most important elements are in place and in a high performance environment you've got to have a pretty hard, robust debate about whether what you are doing is right or wrong."

Elliott said he gained most satisfaction from the state of the junior track riders coming through.

"We've got four different sports and I'd love to see success across all four.

"We haven't been able to get the mix quite right with BMX; road is always a tough one to have any controlled growth over, and it's a bit the same with mountain biking.

"But I'm very proud of what we've done with the junior track programme. We've got an amazing feeder programme for future Olympians and world champions. That's probably the most satisfying legacy I could leave."

- NZ Herald

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