Peter Michael has the distinction of being one of New Zealand's more obscure world champions. Now he's poised to take his talents into the mainstream, as our next great Winter Olympics hope and perhaps our first medallist for more than quarter of a century.

For when, surely not if, he lines up at Pyeongchang, South Korea next year, Michael will know he has already been on the podium at the Olympic venue - twice.

Last month, he became the first Kiwi to place at a world speed skating championships, snatching a surprise bronze in the individual 5000m.

Next day, he assisted New Zealand to silver in the three-man team pursuit, trailing only a dominant Netherlands outfit. Not bad for a lad from Palmerston North, previously known as a seven-time world in-line skating champion.


Recent results justify Michael's transition from wheels to blades.

"It was a really good feeling to medal on the first day, because the first day is always a bit nervy," he reflects.

"I was hoping that would be a race I could medal in and it was a bonus to knock off the third Dutch skater. The following day, we were very hyped up and excited for the team pursuit, especially after the medal the day before, and we clicked off an even better result.

"This year, I've made leaps and bounds in my 5km and we've come a long way in the team pursuit. It's our first year competing in the pursuit and we had a [World Cup] podium in Japan, so we knew it was possible."

It helps that Michael is not alone in chasing his Olympic dream. Based in Germany, he is part of a Kiwi contingent that includes two-time Olympian Shane Dobbin and Reyon Kay, under the coaching of Dobbin's brother Kalon.

Significantly, all are in-line converts and while the two disciplines may look the same, Michael is still perfecting the subtleties of ice racing three years after his first venture on to the frozen water.

"I had an opportunity to have go on the ice after the last Olympics," he says. "I went to the ice rink with some friends and didn't like it initially. I didn't have very good equipment right at the start, but I gave it a couple more sessions. Then there was the possibility to race and I decided why not ... the worst that could happen was I go slow, the best would be I achieve the World Cup time."

History will show that the latter prevailed. In his first World Cup meet, he qualified for the world championships and a new career was born.

"At that point, I didn't really know whether I was loving the sport, but I started training under Kalon the next year and really fell in love with it."

In his third season now, Michael picked up a World Cup win over 5000m at Astana in December, second at Berlin in January and trails only Dutchman Jorrit Bergsma in overall standings, heading into this weekend's final round at Stavanger, Norway.

He still splits the year between ice and in-line, taking out the 15km elimination race at last year's world championships by less than one-thousandth of a second for his fifth victory in the event.

But as the Olympics near, Michael understands he will have to spend more time on the ice, perfecting the technical nuances - the foot placement or arm swing - that could make the difference when medals are handed out.

New Zealand's only medal at that level has been the silver of alpine skier Annelise Coberger in 1992, although the last festival at Sochi saw five top-10 finishes, including Shane Dobbin's seventh over 10,000m. The performances from this Kiwi ice squad suggests our next trinket may not be that far away.

"We're starting to feel that," says Michael. "There's definitely a shot there, it's not just talk. That's the great thing about the team pursuit - there's three of us super-hyped and training for it. Motivation is just through the roof.

"I had always had the dream of going to the Olympics, but I didn't just want to compete - I wanted to be a winner - and I knew a discipline change would be necessary. Sometimes it's a surprise to see the plan working so well. It's always better when you're ticking off boxes, not crossing them."