Thursday, July 4, 2013

Olympia

I have just come home from Greece where I was selected to represent New Zealand, along with Storm Uru, at the International Olympic Academy's Young Participants Session held in Olympia from 11-25th June. There were 170 people from 91 countries at the session and we spent two weeks living at the International Olympic Academy, which is situated about 500m from the home of the Olympic Games, Olympia.

The International Olympic Academy campus looking from above
and from below...
The format of the session was a mix of lectures about the Olympic movement and discussion groups along with sports events, cultural evenings and visits to the historical Olympic sites. For me it really opened my eyes to the wider Olympic movement - as something much larger than just the high performance pinnacle sporting event that is the Olympic Games. We had some really fascinating discussions about many issues including commercialisation, politics, doping, legacy and youth in sport.


Entrance to the IOA
It was incredible to be able to visit Olympia and see where the Olympic Games originated, to stand on the track where they raced in the very first Olympic Games in 776BC, and to see the place where every two years the Olympic flame is lit for the Summer and Winter Olympics. We walked past the ancient site every time we walked from the IOA into the village of Olympia.

Acropolis, Athens

The Ancient Olympic site

The track at Ancient Olympia, seen from the road walking from the campus into town
I met some amazing people and made new friends from all around the globe, all working in sport in some way. There were also 25 other Olympians at the session including two medalists - Storm (bronze in London in rowing) and Alina Dumitru (from Romania, gold in Beijing and silver in London in judo). We had a lot of fun over the two weeks, similar to the organised chaos and excitement you would expect at University 'O' week!
We recruited people (even two Aussies!) and taught them to perform the haka for a cultural evening

Storm and I presented with our certificates of participation from the Dean and the Director of the IOA
It was an extra special time for me as whilst I was in Olympia I realised that it had been exactly one year since my last competition and it was a great chance to reflect on the 12 months since starting my retirement. I've done some pretty cool stuff in that time - been to some amazing places, met some amazing people, got a job and broke some bones, but I never realised how hard it was going to be to stop doing what I loved to do and to know I couldn't go back, and I still feel lost without that single minded focus on a goal which you pour your heart and soul into...but I'm working on a new one!! Stay tuned...

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Athletics New Zealand Award

Last weekend I spent the weekend at Mt Smart stadium for the New Zealand Track and Field Champs where I did some on-field commentary with my friend Sarah Cowley. We had a fun time in our high-vis vests with the mic on the infield, mostly being told off by the officials for all kinds of "infringements"! The highlight of the meet for me was being awarded a plaque and beautiful bunch of flowers from Athletics New Zealand in recognition of my contribution to athletics over my career. I was blown away as it was pretty special to be presented with this by Annette Purvis, chair of Athletics NZ, and Mayor of Auckland Len Brown in front of everyone at the Champs. It is something Athletics NZ is looking to do on a more regular basis - to recognise athletes (who have represented New Zealand at major champs) retiring from the sport.


Its been a week of pretty cool stuff actually....I got to go to Sky TV's headquarters in Mt Wellington and get a behind the scenes tour and then watch The Crowd Goes Wild sports news programme being put to air. Its amazing to see what has to be done to put what we see on the telly to air. Then on Thursday night my sis Nins and I went to the basketball at Vector Arena to watch the Breakers dominate Sydney Kings in the Australian NBL semi-finals. Basketball was my big love sport-wise at school and it was awesome watching the 2m tall guys slam dunking it!

The reason I got a behind the scenes tour at Sky was because I went there for a meeting to prepare for doing commentary for the Queen Street Mile, which was held on Monday. I was commentating with John McBeth and Steve Ovett (Gold medallist 800m 1980 Olympics). It was rather nerve wracking for a former heptathlete to be trying to say something semi-intelligent about middle distance running on live TV in such esteemed company! The only major slip up was kicking the plug which was connected to our monitors so there was mild panic while we were flying blind for a few minutes commentating on a black screen before I figured out what I had done, woops!

The event was organised by the great John Walker to raise money for his foundation that helps disadvantaged kids and aimed to re-introduce the mile on Queen St after its success back in the 70s and 80s. Its a great concept, and its the third time this summer Auckland has hosted an athletics competition in a different settting - there was also Summer Vaults (where they hold a pole vault competition at a cafe in Mission Bay) and Shot in the City (where Val Adams and others had a shot put comp inside The Cloud on Queens Wharf). Its a great way to get people interested in track and field and hopefully there will be more of it!