Molly Meech, Alex Maloney, Tyla-Nathan Wong and David Nyika are among New Zealand Olympians and Olympic hopefuls who have gathered at Auckland’s iconic Piha beach to celebrate one year until the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Twelve athletes from nine sports worked with an artist to create a stunning 2020m² stylised silver fern surrounded by a Japanese brushstroke circle on the black sands of Piha Beach.
New Zealand Team Chef de Mission Rob Waddell worked alongside the athletes.
“One year to go is where the rubber really hits the road,” said Waddell.
“In the year ahead of an Olympic Games, training, focus and preparation goes up a notch and the level of competition at World Championships and other qualifiers is intense.”
Rugby Sevens athlete Tyla Nathan-Wong won silver at Rio 2016 and is looking forward to the challenge of Tokyo 2020.
“Today was a great opportunity to reflect on what’s just over the horizon,” said Nathan-Wong.
“The Olympic Games is the pinnacle for us. It only comes once every four years, it's extremely competitive and we’re 100% committed to the task ahead."
Olympic Summer Games
Tokyo 2020 will feature new sports and disciplines, many of which are youth focussed. Waddell believes these new events will ensure the Olympic Games reaches and inspires more people than ever before.
“There’s an opportunity for us to qualify athletes from surfing, BMX freestyle, 3 x 3 basketball, karate and more so it’s really exciting to have these new sports involved,” said Waddell.
“With the addition of new sports, we’re expecting our biggest ever team. Our previous largest was 199 athletes going into Rio 2016, made up of 100 female and 99 male athletes.”
Waddell has travelled to Tokyo for a number of planning meetings and is expecting a well-run games.
“All the infrastructure and plans are progressing really well. Tokyo is holding 56 test events across the venues ahead of the Games to ensure that everything will run smoothly which is also a great initiative.”
Selection for the New Zealand Team to Tokyo 2020 will begin in March 2020. To be successful, an athlete must be allocated a highly competitive Olympic quota spot and individually meet the New Zealand Olympic Committee’s top 16 selection criteria. This asks athletes to be able to demonstrate their capability of a finish in the top 16 in an Olympic field.
Boxer and two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist David Nyika is one of those chasing an Olympic spot.
“A lot of effort goes into an Olympic Campaign and there’s a lot of work still to do between now and the Games,” said Nyika.
“The next year of training and preparation is really where the medals are won and lost so I'll be working extremely hard and hope to make it over there.”
This is the second time that Tokyo has held the Olympic Games. The last time was in 1964 where Sir Peter Snell won two gold medals.
There are more than 10,500 athletes from 206 nations expected to compete in Tokyo, making it the largest sporting event the world will have ever seen.