The New Zealand Olympic Committee has named a 15-strong track cycling team for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

The athletes, made up of a mixture of experienced campaigners and exciting new talent, were officially selected to the New Zealand Team at a function at the Cambridge Avantidrome this morning. 

Six riders return from the team that competed at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, with four of those to compete in their third Olympic Games following their debuts at London 2012 – Aaron Gate, Ethan Mitchell, Rushlee Buchanan and Jaime Nielsen. Nine riders will be making their Olympic debuts.

The team includes Rio medallists Sam Webster and Ethan Mitchell; current Points Race World Champion Corbin Strong with six former world champions in Gate, Mitchell, Webster, Campbell Stewart, Regan Gough and Jordan Kerby.

The athletes are:

Women - Endurance:
Bryony Botha – Team Pursuit, Madison (reserve)
Rushlee Buchanan – Team Pursuit, Madison
Holly Edmondston – Team Pursuit, Omnium
Jessie Hodges – Madison, Omnium (reserve), Team Pursuit (reserve)
Kirstie James – Team Pursuit, Sprint (TBC)
Jaime Nielsen – Team Pursuit

Ellesse Andrews – Keirin, Sprint

Men - Endurance:
Aaron Gate – Team Pursuit, Madison (TBC), Omnium (TBC)
Regan Gough – Team Pursuit
Jordan Kerby – Team Pursuit
Campbell Stewart – Team Pursuit, Madison (TBC), Omnium (TBC)
Corbin Strong – Team Pursuit, Madison (TBC), Omnium (TBC)

Sam Dakin – Team Sprint, Keirin
Ethan Mitchell – Team Sprint, Sprint
Sam Webster – Team Sprint, Sprint, Keirin

Callum Saunders (sprint) and Nick Kergozou (endurance) have been selected as travelling reserves.

Jordan Castle, Tom Sexton, Michaela Drummond, Nicole Shields, Emily Shearman and Ally Wollaston have been named as non-travelling reserves with one of the female riders to be selected as a travelling reserve next year.

The men's sprint team athletes celebrate their selection

The team’s strength lies in endurance events where the men’s team pursuit is ranked second in the world, the women third, Campbell Stewart ranked third in the omnium and New Zealand men ranked second in the two-rider Madison which was added back into the Olympic programme for Tokyo. In the sprint events Ellesse Andrews is ranked fifth in the world in the keirin and the men’s team sprint ranked eighth.

Men’s endurance rider Aaron Gate says he’s thrilled to be heading to his third Olympic Games.

“This is a big step towards the Olympic Games so it’s a really special milestone for us.

“Being named means that despite all the stuff going on in the world, we can continue with our plan for Tokyo, put all our hard work to good use and really focus on putting our best foot forward.”

Rushlee Buchanan is also returning for her third Olympic Games and says the extra year of preparation has played to the endurance team’s advantage.

“This year has obviously presented many challenges for everyone, but I can confidently say that the women’s team is stronger mentally and physically because of it. I’m actually more excited now with an extra year because of the support we were given.

“Cycling New Zealand helped us get through the lockdowns and while the postponement of the Olympics was a big change, it was realistic with Covid-19. I was able to train at full capacity and so another year was a benefit for me and the team and we have definitely used that extra time wisely.

“To be named in my third Olympics is a huge honour and I am determined to use the knowledge I have gained from my previous experiences to help my team. The New Zealand Team is such a unique and special team to be part of and I will always be immensely proud to wear the fern.”

The women's endurance team

NZOC CEO Kereyn Smith extended her congratulations to the athletes.

“We’re on a new path to Tokyo and it’s fantastic to be naming our track cycling team as we move forward with purpose.

“A huge amount of work has gone into getting you to this point; there’s a lot more work to do between now and Games time so we wish you the best with the rest of your preparation and we can't wait to watch you compete and earn the fern.” 

Cycling New Zealand High Performance Director, Martin Barras, said the team represents a strong mix of experience and exciting young talent.

“The endurance squads have come off an outstanding 2019 season and through to early 2020 with some young talent combining with our established riders. Both squads produced world class performances and have used the opportunity with the postponement to 2021 to focus on an extensive strength and conditioning training block.

“The sprint group are in a rebuilding phase and this year has allowed us to bring on some young talent to merge with our proven performers.

“While the world is in some turmoil, our riders have been single-mindedly focussed on making the most of every session for their sights firmly fixed on Tokyo.”

Cycling New Zealand said that with no global track cycling events on the international schedule for the next five months, the decision to name the team now was in the best interests of the riders.

The sport’s world body, the UCI is to make significant change to the global track cycling programme, with the World Championships moving to late in the year starting from 2021.

“We looked at all of the options and shared them with our stakeholders, coaches and athletes. With no major international competition before the 2021 Games, the consensus was that it was unfair on riders to wait until early next year to receive a decision that can be made now,” said Barras.

“At the time of the Games postponement, all track cycling qualifications and New Zealand team selection races under the previous nomination criteria had been completed. With no further significant international events to come, it made sense to select the team now.

“We had buy-in from the UCI, NZOC, riders and coaches to move forward with the selection process. This allows our selected riders to focus on their preparations, while we work with our other riders on their future plans.”

Barras said they have included additional reserve riders to cover the risk of injury with such significant lead time to Tokyo next year.

Kereyn Smith presented each of the athletes with a silver fern as they were named to the team. The silver fern is the symbol of the New Zealand Team and every athlete that's named to the team receives a fern at selection announcements. The athletes will be encouraged to plant the ferns at a place of significance for them or their team and reflect upon their Olympic journey as it grows.

New Zealand has a proud Olympic cycling legacy, having collected eight cycling medals (seven track, one BMX) since the first won by Gary Anderson at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games.

The selection takes the total number of New Zealand athletes named to the team for Tokyo to 29.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games
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