by Chris Tobin
South Canterbury could be in for a remarkable year sports-wise.
The region, already known as a cradle of champions with such names as Fitzsimmons, Lovelock and Phar Lap, is likely to be represented by its largest ever number of athletes at an Olympic Games when they begin in Tokyo in five months’ time. Several have excellent chances of picking up medals.
Shot put bronze medallist at the last Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and former supreme Halberg Award winner Tom Walsh is the standout possibility to add another medal to his bulging collection of one world medal, two world indoor medals and one Commonwealth gold medal.
The only gap in his collection is an Olympic gold.
“I’ve got everything else in the shot put and it’s definitely one of my goals,” he said last week.
Silver medallist in women’s trap shooting Natalie Rooney was another who could figure in the medals.
After being ranked No1 in the world early in 2017, Rooney went through a slump in form but she was now shooting her way back to form, winning Australian and New Zealand national championships.
Subject to selection, another strong medal possibility could be Waimate cyclist Dylan Kennett.
If Kennett packed his bags for Tokyo he would go there with a point to prove after being part of a 4000m pursuit team which finished fourth at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Winner of World, Commonwealth and World Cup medals including a team pursuit gold at the 2015 World Championships, Kennett has been in strong form recently, finishing third at the national road championships which were won by top Timaru road professional Shane Archbold, now a member of the UCI World Team Classification winner Deceuninc-Quick-Step, of Belgium. Subject to his professional duties, he could even join the Olympic mix as well.
Another possible podium finisher, again depending on selection, could be rower Emma Dyke, who, like Kennett, has a point to prove.
The Timaru Rowing Club member and Craighead Diocesan School old girl was in the women’s eight which finished fourth at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Since then, continuing in the eight she picked up World Rowing Cup medals, a Henley Royal Regatta win and a bronze at the world championships.
In 2018, in a new combination, Dyke and the New Zealand eight finished seventh at the world championships but last year the eight shot to Olympic contention with a brilliant gold at the world championships in Austria.
She and her fellow crew members have been rowing 200km-250km and doing three weight sessions weekly.
“It’s going well and we’re more on track than we were at the same time last year.”
The Black Sticks men’s hockey team beat South Korea at the end of last year to qualify for the Olympics.
Temuka’s Sam Lane, now resident in Auckland, was part of that team which has a busy schedule before Tokyo, having played matches this month against Belgium, Great Britain and Spain with more to come soon against Argentina, the Netherlands and Australia.
Other South Canterbury sports people with chances of getting picked for the Tokyo Olympics are cyclist Holly Edmonston and rower Cameron Crampton, formerly of Timaru Boys’ High School.
Edmonston had a great season last year, coming back from injury to win World Cup medals and take a bronze as a member of the New Zealand women’s pursuit team at the UCI World Championships.
Although hit by another setback with surgery recently she has her sights on Tokyo and, if picked in the pursuit team, must have a chance of a medal.
Crampton has been training in Rowing New Zealand’s men’s sculling group. He could make a possible men’s quad to target the Olympic qualification regatta.
The New Zealand Olympic team will be announced on June 10. The Olympics run from July 24 to August 9.