Smoothing the Olympic path

By Iain Hyndman

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RIO BOUND: Bags packed and ready to fly, retired Whanganui professional cyclist Cath Cheatley is off to Rio to smooth the way for the Kiwi athletes.
RIO BOUND: Bags packed and ready to fly, retired Whanganui professional cyclist Cath Cheatley is off to Rio to smooth the way for the Kiwi athletes.

Retired Whanganui professional road and track cyclist Cath Cheatley embarked on a dream job yesterday.

The 33-year-old former international star, and wife of New Zealand cycling track coach Dayle Cheatley, flew to Auckland yesterday to catch her connecting flight to Rio de Janeiro to support Kiwi athletes at the 2016 Olympic Games. The games open on August 5 and close August 21.

Cheatley is part of the advance guard ensuring everything is in place and ready to welcome the 195 competing Kiwi athletes.

Under New Zealand Chef de Mission Rob Waddell there are four departments designed to cater for all athlete needs - athlete support, medical, media and operations.

Cheatley is one of four appointed to the athlete support crew with a brief to ensure a smooth-running network is in place to allow athletes to concentrate on performance alone.

"All of us are former Olympians or Commonwealth Games athletes with experience at this level," Cheatley said before leaving Whanganui yesterday.

"I filled a similar role at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and while that was on a much smaller scale to the Olympics I know what to expect."

Cheatley has a range of jobs to do before the athletes arrive in Rio, including sorting the lodgings.

"We have the upper level of an 18-storey apartment building, including the penthouse which will be our medical centre. Our job is not one of a mentor, but rather making sure the athletes can concentrate on their performances.

"Each of the sporting codes have their own special culture under the banner of the New Zealand team as a whole, which has its own culture - it's about respect and quality."

Cheatley said while she missed competing, this role was special and she felt honoured to have been given the opportunity to be part of the Olympic challenge.

She also gave thanks to her employers, School Kit, for giving her time off for the duration of the games.

"Dayle and I are based in Waikato these days and I work for School Kit, a group of ex-teachers who provide a visit service to schools. They have very kindly given me time off," Cheatley said.

Her husband is in Bordeaux, France with the New Zealand track team and is scheduled to fly into the Olympic Village on August 2.

"The road race is usually raced in the first few days and the track competition starts soon August 11. The lead-up can be a fairly stressful time for Dayle and his crew, which includes Jono Hamlin. Jono is from Whanganui and is assistant sprint coach under
Anthony Peden who was also based here for several years during his racing days," Cheatley said.

While her role on the athlete support crew will keep her busy, Cheatley aims to get around as many sports as she can during the games, including cycling, which of course is her passion.

"One of our jobs is to secure tickets to various sports the athletes may want to watch themselves. I intend getting to as many as I can, although I can probably only expect about five hours sleep a night.

"We will also be hosting our own mini medal ceremonies within each code. They will have a very unique Kiwi flavour and full of fun, although they still give those goosebump moments."

Cheatley said the New Zealand team was well aware of the well-documented concerns about Rio hosting the games, but is content all bases were covered to ensure the safety and good health of the athletes.

"There are facts you can't avoid about Rio - 60 percent of the country is corrupt and there is the Zika virus, but we have processes in place to handle these concerns."

And Cheatley was also vocal about the Russian drugs fiasco.

With her New Zealand Athletics Commission (voice of the athletes) hat on, Cheatley said the McLaren Report was a shocking revelation and drugs cheats should not be tolerated.
"[But for NZ] it's all about protecting our clean athletes," Cheatley said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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