New Zealand’s first Olympic appearance was in 1988, when other unlikely teams such as Jamaica and Mexico also appeared. The 4-man team, and both 2-man teams were unable to make it into the top 20. Last appearance at Winter Olympics was 2006 in Italy. The 4-man team was unable to race due to injury and the 2-man team did not qualify for the final run.
There was a good chance for a New Zealand team at Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics, with strong performance and a well organised team, including backing from SPARC. However the team failed to meet a top 16 ranking, and therefore missed its funding performance criteria.
A new campaign targeting the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics was driven and passionately. Despite a run of injuries to athletes Reid and White, the 2012/13 season finished in March 2013 with the current team obtaining personal bests, and taking Gold in the BC Cup. Injuries and resourcing issues hampered the success of the team’s appearances at the North America Cup events, but a strong finish resulted in a modest improvement to the FIBT rankings.
As with past teams, funding and resources are the primary challenges for the New Zealand bobsled team. Changes to federation and government funding policies as well as a lack of sponsorship, leaves teams needing to be personally funded. Personally funded teams become hampered by athletes being unable to focus on their performance.
Overall, New Zealand has struggled to maintain any continuity or organisation between Olympic campaigns. Teams have been formed on an ad-hoc basis, and valuable experience, sponsorship and support are lost as each campaign concludes.
Having emerged from the failed Sochi campaign, the team has spent 24 months reviewing every aspect of previous campaigns. It has become well accepted that previous strategies are not working, or much too dependant on a single benefactor. It is also an obvious weakness in the past that New Zealand women have not been represented in either the 2 or 4 member versions of the sport.
While the current goal of the New Zealand team is to become funded and reach the 2018 Winter Olympics, we also have a vision that looks beyond 2018. An Olympic appearance in 2018 is unlikely to deliver podium, or even top 16 results, but it will be the first step to building an experience base that future talent can leverage.
New Zealand is rich in athletic talent, particularly in strong sprinters – the likes found training in most high-performing New Zealand men’s and women’s rugby teams. It is the team’s goal to slowly and consistently build the resources that are needed locally and internationally for the sport in New Zealand, with the ultimate goal to see New Zealand Men and Women competing regularly in global competitions, and the Winter Olympics.
There is a great future for this sport in New Zealand.
The 2016/17 season begins in North America in November 2016. With the New Zealand team undergoing an organisational transition and reform process, the focus is on establishing a youth and development squad, including a women’s 2-person team.
The team is accepting applications for interested athletes to attend a two-week introductory and training programme to be held in early 2017. Team management will confirm the venue for the programme, but it is anticipated to be Whistler, Canada or Park City, Utah. It will be expected that interested athletes, with the support of the team, will raise their own funds to cover the cost of the two-week programme. Applicants should expect a total cost of around $9,500 NZD for the full two-weeks.
There will be three classifications of applicants accepted to the programme:
– Open to men and women, for ages from 16yrs to 30yrs. There are 8 spaces for athletes. In the event of more than 8 applicants, team management will undergo a selection process. Applicants of this class will be considered for the youth and/or development squads.
– Open to men and women, for ages from 16yrs and up. There are no performance requirements, but there are health and conditioning guidelines. It is expected that applicants of this class will not be pursuing representative status in the sport.
– Open to men and women, for ages 16yrs to 30yrs. There are two spaces for applicants to apply for a sponsored position in the programme. A sponsored position will be considered “Athlete Class” and costs will be substantially, if not 100% subsidised. Acceptance will be subject to team management and specialist athletic advisors.
For all classes it will be entirely at team management discretion on who is accepted to the programme. Depending on special circumstances, it will be expected that team management will make all arrangements for the programme, including flights, accommodation, food, etc.