Tough standards are set. Expectations are such ' />

New Zealand's summer Olympic selection policy has long been known as being demanding on athletes.

Tough standards are set. Expectations are such that in some sports simply achieving the international standard is insufficient.

So too the Commonwealth Games. But for the winter Olympics, which are in Vancouver from February 12-28, the philosophy is rather different.

Certain standards are sought of the athletes across the disciplines but there is also a realism from the selection panel, which comprises New Zealand Olympic Committee secretary-general Barry Maister, former Olympic rower Mike Stanley, and NZOC board members Simon Wickham and Rosemarie Nye.

For the Beijing Olympics of 2008, an expectation of a top-16 finish was the NZOC call.

"If we took a figure like that and tried to apply it across the Winter Olympics it wouldn't work," Maister said yesterday.

And so the panel applies a measure of discretion.

There are two standards athletes aim to achieve: the A qualifying which is invariably difficult, although easier in some sports than others; and the discretionary standard, wherein the results must be impressive, but the selectors can take in other factors such as potential to shine at the next Winter Games four years hence.

They are also open to persuasion from the sports' officials.

"We say 'tell us why we should pick this person'," Maister said. "Usually they've done their homework well. We listen and debate it.

"They know they've got to provide the evidence and it's not just taken as lip service. It's really about a case being made and whether we think it's good enough, or the athlete is a good bet for the future, or there are extenuating circumstances."

But all winter sports were advised by NZOC early last year that, while discretion would play a part in the Vancouver assessments, the results would need to be showing clear signs of improvement.

"We said we were going to raise the bar on what they did at Torino [the 2006 Games], therefore take what you did there and do a bit better," Maister said.

He likes what he's seeing from New Zealand's leading winter athletes, across the board.

"We've got a few things going for us. We have a much better winter performance programme. We monitor these people much better, there is funding available to them.

"The kids have had a pretty good run this time and some are young enough to go forward next time [Sochi, Russia in 2014]."

The bottom line in the public mind is medals. To those in the know, it's unrealistic, considering the New Zealand team have only ever won one Winter Olympic medal, the silver of alpine skier Annelise Coberger at Albertville, France 18 years ago.

New Zealand has always been known as a summer Games nation. Winter pursuits are seen as just that primarily, so expectations among the NZOC fraternity are by extension lower than for the summer equivalent.

"We're always hopeful of pulling something off," Maister said.

New Zealand's Games team will be named either late next week or on January 25, once notification has come through from the international federations advising where New Zealand has been allocated a quota spot.

Alpine skiing

Ohakune's Ben Griffin and Tim Cafe of Queenstown both fit into the discretionary category - they are well short of the extremely tough A qualification, but by consistent performances and with the potential to improve and be around for the 2014 Games can expect to get the trip courtesy of the selectors' ability to apply a subjective coating to their assessments.

One prospect, Canadian-Kiwi Sarah Murphy. However, her hopes have dipped in recent times. She will rely on New Zealand receiving a quota spot but her chances are not as bright as they were. She is rated a strong chance for 2014.

Cross-country skiing
Two nominations expected; two athletes to board the plane. Tauranga's Katie Calder was the first New Zealand winter athlete to achieve the qualification standard. Ben Koons, Dunedin-raised but with a large part of his education in the United States, qualified with a sub-100 FIS qualifying points last year and has also done all that is required. These are likely to be rubber-stamped by selectors.

Free skiing
One candidate, and a good one too. Queenstown's free-spirited Mitchey Greig missed a spot on the last Olympic team as an alpine skier, so looked in other directions. She qualified 17th in this week's World Cup race in Alpe d'Huez, in the French Alps, only to have the final snowed out. Greig has met the criterion of being ranked inside the top 30 and when the quota spots come out, she will almost certainly get one by dint of her impressive results.

Three candidates, with two to win selection. Shane Dobbin, the former four-time inline world champion, is ranked No13 over 5000m in the world and has already been accorded a spot in the field. His naming is a mere formality. Fellow Cantabrians Blake Skjellerup and Mark Jackson are vying for one short track place, which New Zealand has already secured. There is little between the pair. Jackson finished 20th at the 2002 Olympics.

One woman, Dunedin's Tionette Stoddard, and two men, Rotorua's Ben Sandford and British-based Ian Roberts, are putting their hands up. Stoddard has been consistently inside the world top 20 on the World Cup circuit. The Olympic field is 20. The maths is straightforward. So too Sandford, a 2006 Olympian where he finished 10th at Turin. His uncle, Bruce, was world skeleton champion 20 years ago. Sandford is ranked No12 in the world. Roberts is dependent on New Zealand receiving a quota spot, but turned in a strong performance for 19th at the last World Cup race in Germany this month.

New Zealand are guaranteed two spots for men and women, and the possibility of a quota spot for a third woman. North Shore's James Hamilton and 2006 Olympian Julianne Bray of Wanaka are all but sure of going. Favourite for the second men's spot is Ben Stewart, who is on the cusp of the world's top 30, with Mt Maunganui's Mitchell Brown his rival. Taupo's Rebecca Sinclair and Brown's sister Kendall, also of the Mount, are vying for the certain second place.