Kiwi Olympic double medallist Hayden Roulston has lost $250,000 invested in a failed finance company that is now under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.
Roulston, whose Olympic dream was almost destroyed by the saga, is one of the highest-profile victims in the aftermath of the collapse of more than 20 failed Kiwi finance firms.
"I don't want people feeling sorry for me," Roulston said in Beijing, where he is staying with partner Angelique until the team flies home on Tuesday. "I was just one of many New Zealanders affected by the collapse of the finance industry."
Roulston was reluctant to give details about the terms of the investment or the losses incurred, saying it was a harrowing chapter of his life he wanted to close.
One of the "Tight Five" businessmen who helped Roulston back on his pedals, says he lost between $250,000 and $300,000.
Roulston became the first New Zealand track cyclist to claim two Olympic medals after winning silver in the individual pursuit and bronze in the team event last week.
But the 27-year-old, who overcame a debilitating heart condition diagnosed two years ago, almost pulled out of the Beijing competition after Christchurch businessman Darryn Hunt was bankrupted last October.
Roulston lost his life savings when he invested in companies owned by Hunt - Cash N Go Ltd and Cash Express Christchurch Ltd. Last October Hunt was declared bankrupt in the Christchurch High Court over a debt of $4.1 million to Australian businessman Gary Wallace. The companies are in liquidation and the total owed to creditors is estimated at up to $20m.
The Serious Fraud Office is also investigating Hunt, who has vowed "revenge" on investors he claimed were involved, including former All Blacks and Black Caps. SFO director Grant Liddell yesterday said the investigation was continuing but declined to comment further.
Companies Office records show the liquidators have been unable to contact Hunt and it is unlikely unsecured creditors will get any money back. Herald on Sunday attempts to contact Hunt and his brother Barry were also unsuccessful.
When Roulston lost the hundreds of thousands of dollars he had earned by cycling professionally overseas, his Olympic dream was almost extinguished until a group of "tennis buddies" went to his aid.
"I went to Craig [Adair] and said, 'I don't think I can do this any more'," Roulston said of his cycling career. "When he saw how desperate the situation was he got this thing started. I can say that without those guys I would not have been at the Olympics," Roulston said. "They didn't even know me. They just knew a bit about my career. We went to lunch one day and that was it."
Dubbed the "Tight Five", Adair, the New Zealand track cycling manager, and Christchurch businessmen Craig Nicholas, Greg Bramwell, Stephen Tubbs and Roger Bridge agreed to donate nearly $20,000 to Roulston over the past six months.
A 1982 Commonwealth Games cycling gold medallist, Adair asked his four friends, who have played tennis together for 20 years, to help him or "Hayden was lost to the sport".
"He lost every bit of savings he had. It was significant, over $100,000, significantly more than that," Adair said yesterday.
"Hayden didn't put everything in one hit. He did it over a couple of years. He put more money in, then his parents and friends invested too."
When the finance companies failed to make interest payments late last year, Roulston borrowed $60,000 from a bank to repay the money owed to his friends and family, thinking the finance company would repay him.
Then Hunt was made bankrupt and the companies put into liquidation. "The money we gave Hayden was only enough to make those interest payments and cover his living expenses, and it was subsistence living. Otherwise he was gone from the sport," said Adair.
"He's an awesome talent, he deserves what he got and he can do better yet."
The other members of the "Tight Five" yesterday told the Herald on Sunday they were delighted to support Roulston through a tough time.
"Hayden lost a lot of money, I understand between $250,000 and $300,000. It was everything he had," said Nicholas. "He didn't have enough money to buy groceries. He was having to go and labour to fill up his car with petrol or pay his cellphone bill."
"Craig came around and said: 'This guy can deliver a gold medal.
"We said: 'How much do you want?'" said Nicholas. "Hayden turned around and he has delivered. "
Roulston said that everything was clicking into place for him now.
"It started at the world champs when I got fourth [in the individual pursuit]. The Olympics have been great, better than I could ever have imagined."
Meanwhile, he is on the verge of signing a lucrative deal with a major European team, a crucial development as the "Tight Five's" funding ran through to the Olympics only.
"I'm on my own now," Roulston said, adding he would never forget how he got there.