If Nicole van der Kaay performs well next year in Tokyo, the new ANZ Olympic Pathway Programme will deserve a decent share of the credit.

The promising New Zealand triathlete admits that the initiative has been vital, and helped her to fully focus on preparation in the countdown to next year's event.

Like many Olympic athletes in New Zealand, van der Kaay needs to fit in work alongside her considerable training commitments, and feels the financial pressures.

"You try not to let it get to you, but it can be quite a burden," said van der Kaay. "You are going from pay cheque to pay cheque, having to fund your own bike and flights and travel and the extra stuff when you are overseas, so this will definitely ease the pressures. I can focus more on my training now, without worrying about the next pay cheque."


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The difficulties have been accentuated for van der Kaay as the national body has seen their funding decreased in recent years.

"Financially it has been pretty hard with Tri NZ having funding cuts," said van der Kaay. "This is going to make a huge difference releasing the financial pressure."

As well as financial support, the programme offer a variety of initiatives to help athletes be their best, both inside and outside their chosen arena.

"There are other aspects, like developing your own brand and learning about finance," said van der Kaay. "I'm looking forward to the programs. I love the self development stuff, investments and finance, athlete specific stuff. I'm pretty excited to be a part of that and developing myself."

Achieving the right balance has been vital for the 23-year-old, who knows that the pressures can be overwhelming.

"It's about balancing it all; your work, life and social," said van der Kaay. "If you dive all into training, or all into work to try and fund training it's not good. [It's about] keeping a healthy mindset and motivated for training."

Van der Kaay's international breakthrough came at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. She claimed a bronze medal in the mixed relay with teammates Andrea Hewitt, Tayler Reid, and Ryan Sissons and was the best-placed Kiwi in the women's triathlon, finishing seventh.


As part of the young mixed relay team, van der Kaay continued that momentum this year, and they are currently ranked fifth in the world, with one more race in the series next year (the top eight gain passage to Tokyo).

"Qualifying for the Olympics would be a dream," said van der Kaay. "It's been a goal for a long time now. We are performing well in the mixed team relay — we have been on the podium a few times so we have a good chance."