The need to get results under the belt before arriving at a Winter Olympics is seen as one of the lessons for New Zealand athletes at the Vancouver Games.

Ben Sandford was New Zealand's top performer with his 11th placing in the men's skeleton, while there were other top-16 placings for women's skeleton racer Tionette Stoddard, women's halfpipe snowboarder Kendall Brown, who battled through the pain of a dislocated shoulder, and short-track speedskater Blake Skjellerup.

However, the selectors' target for the team of 16 had been two top-10 finishes and, in several events, New Zealand competitors finished at the tail of the field.

Chef de mission Pete Wardell said the team was a young one, with 12 making their Olympics debuts, and for many it was a big learning curve.

"They've realised that an Olympics is different from a World Cup event," he said yesterday from Vancouver.

"They've looked at the medals and seen that the people who won them were consistently in the top five or the top 10 coming here. In winter sports, you hardly ever get a bolter."

Therefore, if athletes wanted to finish near the top at an Olympics, they needed to have been there beforehand.

Wardell said athletes, coaches and those running high performance programmes would go back and have an in-depth look at what had to be done ahead of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

"Those who want to make their mark will have to have made their mark before they get there."

The overall performance in Canada has attracted plenty of flak.

New Zealand's most successful Olympian, kayaker Ian Ferguson, said some of the results devalued the country's Olympic legacy.

There have also been questions about whether the support that government funding agency Sparc gave the campaign was money well spent.

Wardell believed the athletes had taken Ferguson's criticism in their stride.

"We're certainly not standing here telling them that they've been outstanding," he said.

"Basically, everybody performed to how they were when they came here ... they've seen the reality."