Black Fern looks ahead to 2020 Olympics redemption

By Jessica Tyson

Exactly one year from today, New Zealand's top athletes will begin to take on the rest of the world at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Among them will be Tyla Nathan-Wong (Ngāpuhi) who’s hoping for redemption after placing second against Australia in women’s rugby sevens at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

"There's going to obviously be pressure because we did come second in Rio but at the end of the day it’s the pressure that you put on yourselves,” she says.

“As soon as you start that pre-season the ball's rolling and we're all go for Tokyo 2020."

Athletes gathered in Piha today to kick off the campaign #EarnThe Fern. Source: Getty

Nathan-Wong says four women’s rugby sevens teams have already qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games, including New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States.

“And USA weren’t even in the last Olympics to qualify which means the competition is getting better and better all over the world.”

Nathan-Wong injured her knee months out of the 2016 games.

“100 days out I was in a big bulky knee brace ... for me, it was about accepting that injury doing as much as I could behind the scenes and in my rehab in the gym to get back in and that’s what I did. Fingers crossed I have a smoother run this time.”

A sand mural made by athletes today. Source: Getty

Nathan-Wong says it is an “immense honour and pride” to attend the Olympic Games.

“To be a New Zealand athlete is one thing but to be an Olympian's another thing.  Only a small portion of people on the world get to experience that and get to feel that pride of pulling that jersey on with the fern and the Olympic hoops under it.”

New Zealand athletes will compete in more than 20 sports at the games.

New Zealand Olympic Committee spokesperson Rob Waddell says there’s a real sense of diversity in the team.

“We've got a ride range of people from all cultures, all people all different personalities, all different sports, especially with the inclusion now with the number of new sports, skateboarding, climbing, three-by-three basketball, surfing...”

It's the first-time these sports will be contested at Olympic level, while baseball and softball will return to the Olympic program for the first time since 2008.

The games will be the largest sporting event the world will have ever seen, with more than 11,000 athletes from 207 nations competing in 33 sports.

The New Zealand Team will start being named from March next year.