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With 46 Commonwealth Games medals and the country’s first two Olympic Winter Games medals in 26 years, New Zealand’s summer and winter athletes kicked off 2018 with stunning performances.

Heading the two successful teams, Chefs de Mission Pete Wardell and Rob Waddell were tasked with building strong cultures within the two teams in a short amount of time.

Pyeongchang Chef de Mission Pete Wardell had to manage a team of athletes who usually compete as individuals, rather than for New Zealand.

“It’s a challenge to bring them together for a two-week period and say you’ve earned the fern and got this black uniform.”

As part of building the team culture in PyeongChang every athlete received a special welcome to the village and the New Zealand team. The welcome consisted of a haka and the presentation of a pounamu necklace.

“We’re lucky to have a team doctor in Nat Anglem who is a staunch Ngāi Tahu man. He really helped us in what it means to be a New Zealander, explaining to the athletes what pounamu means and what it means to make this presentation. That helps to build all those different athletes into one team.”

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Above: Chefs de Mission Pete Wardell (left) and Rob Waddell (right) in Wanaka last year

Rob Waddell led 251 athletes at Gold Coast 2018. It was New Zealand’s biggest ever Commonwealth Games team.

“We had to deal with a lot of different people, living all around the world. Each sport has its own internal dynamic and we respect them. We had to focus on the things we’ve got in common and sharing values.”

Waddell agrees on the importance of having a team performance culture. For both games, a Team Manaakitanga was established. The Gold Coast Chef the Mission is convinced it was key the New Zealand Team’s success.

“Manaakitanga is a Māori word loosely translated as culture but which talks about sharing and inclusiveness. Within our Manaakitanga we built five key pillars: Integrity, Respect, Excellence, Leadership and Pride.”

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Above: Rob Waddell after designating Sophie Pascoe as the New Zealand's flag bearer along with Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy

He says every athlete was taught about the pillars and all were keen to perform to and uphold the values of Manaakitanga.

“The athletes were very proud to be there, to represent their country and their community and that means a huge amount to them”.

At the Olympic Winter Games Wardell has no doubt the culture helped to inspire Zoi Sadowski-Synott to medal.

The Chef de Mission found himself overcome by excitement following Zoi’s heroics, throwing his arms around anyone who came near him.

“I still apologise for giving Grant Robertson the Minister of Sport a giant man hug! I think he was pretty surprised at the time!”


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