NZ Olympic team launches campaign 100 days out from Tokyo

By Te Ao - Māori News

The Tokyo Olympics kick off in 100 days time and athletes from Aotearoa already have their sights set on winning a medal come July.

The New Zealand Olympics team of more than 100 athletes launched its campaign in Auckland today, and they are training to the limits to be ready in two months' time.

Sevens star Stacey Waaka says all the athletes are on different journeys but Covid-19 has taught everyone to be adaptable.

"Some are going overseas soon, to compete in smaller events, before the Olympics. Us, hopefully. I don't know, but we're training as usual and three months - not long to go."

Skateboarding and breakdancing are both new sports that will be introduced to the games in Tokyo.

And for athletes experiencing the games for the first time, it's not only about preparing their bodies to go above and beyond but also training their minds to overcome the pressure.

Andrea Anacan is representing Aotearoa in karate at the games and says her team has spent thousands of hours training and building their focus.

"To think about it, it's like, it's their first time too, and it's my first time and I just have to basically convert that nervousness into excitement."

Covid-19 

For other athletes, like canoe slalom paddler Callum Gilbert, the Covid-19 lockdowns have allowed them more time to prepare for the games.

"I qualified last year in February, and then we got the announcement and officially named on the team," he says.

"Then things started to heat up, getting a bit stressful trying to get everything in in time but, ultimately, when they got delayed, I was pretty happy."

Before Covid-19 struck the world, the Tokyo Olympics were meant to go ahead in July and August in 2020.

Gilbert says, "having another year to prepare has been fantastic and I'm feeling much, much more ready to go now than I did this time last year."

Sevens legend and now athlete engagement manager for the New Zealand Olympics side, DJ Forbes, is making sure Kiwi athletes are not only prepared for the games but arealso  ready for any challenges Covid-19 might throw at them.

"As the team behind the team, we're really working hard to do what we can to enable them to go and perform and provide a safe environment in Tokyo," Forbes says.

"They don't have to worry about that kind of stuff that we can put things in place where they can just focus on doing the job that they've gone there to do."

The opening ceremony for the Tokyo Games will be on Friday, July 23 at 8pm, Japan Standard Time (11pm New Zealand time)