The New Zealand Olympic Committee together with the New Zealand Olympic Wrestling Union has today confirmed Greco-Roman wrestling specialist Craig Miller to compete in the 66kg weight division at the Rio Olympic Games, bringing the New Zealand Team to 199 athletes.
31-year-old Miller claimed his quota spot following the suspension for doping violations of Australian wrestler Vinod Kumar late last week.
Olympic Summer Games
Wrestling - Greco-Roman
Selection into the New Zealand team has been hard fought and something Miller has committed 15 years of training towards.
Miller grew up in Dunedin and attended Kavanagh College where he first began competing in 2002. Since taking up the sport at school the Rio-bound wrestler has gone from strength to strength, culminating in a 7th place finish at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games in the 65kg Freestyle division.
Now based in Canberra, Miller made the shift to Australia shortly after the Commonwealth Games and hasn’t looked back, honing in on his preferred Greco-Roman wrestling and chasing Rio selection.
“After retiring from the Freestyle discipline after Glasgow, I’m really excited to now be confirmed as New Zealand’s wrestler for Rio. The Olympic Games are the absolute pinnacle event in wrestling and I can’t wait to join the NZ Team next month,” he said.
With recent form on his side Miller heads into the Games with renewed confidence, having recorded a second place finish behind Albanian wrestler Meroldo Ndoha at the Australia Cup in Victoria earlier in July.
As the hype builds around the Games and with just 17 days to go until the opening ceremony, the world spotlight on Rio is getting stronger but, hype aside, the determined wrestler is clear on where his motivations lie for the month ahead.
“I’m inspired by the challenge. For wrestlers in this part of the world our international opponents set a very high standard, but that only motivates me to be better and work harder to perform.
“Even if the Olympic Games had no audience and no noise around the event at all, I’d still be hugely honoured to wear the silver fern and take on the very best wrestlers in the world.
“For me, selection into the New Zealand Team fills me with immense pride, I am the sole wrestler on the team, which means I carry the weight of all of NZ Wrestling. I can't disappoint that amazing group of people,” he said.
New Zealand Olympic Committee Chief Executive Kereyn Smith congratulated Miller on his selection and was pleased to see such a wide mix of sports making up our 2016 Olympic Team.
“It’s brilliant to be able to welcome Craig to the team. While his spot came about in an unconventional fashion, Craig rightly deserves and has earned his spot in Rio and we’re excited to support him as he takes on the top wrestlers in the world.
We also note the importance of the ongoing fight against doping the ensuring athletes like Craig get to compete in a fair competition.”
Mark Grayling, New Zealand Wrestling head coach, noted the importance domestically of Olympic representation and looked forward to backing Craig in Rio also.
“Although it’s a pity New Zealand wasn’t confirmed a Rio spot at the qualifying event, we’re nonetheless absolutely thrilled for Craig that his selection is now locked in and he’s heading to the Olympic Games.
“For wrestling, the Olympic Games are the pinnacle for our sport and to have a strong Kiwi wrestler in Rio is excellent. Craig has been consistently stepping up to the plate in his division over recent years and we’re confident he’ll do New Zealand proud in Rio,” Grayling said.