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Cyclists affected by negative team culture

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 23/06/2017

A stressful and negative team environment played a significant role in cycling's poor performance at last year's Rio Olympics, a High Performance Sport NZ review has found.

The 16-strong New Zealand team had targeted a haul of four medals from the Games, but only the men's team sprint delivered, with Eddie Dawkins, Ethan Mitchell and Sam Webster winning silver.

The HPSNZ review, released under the Official Information Act, summarised the responses of a debriefing survey returned by 22 of the 27-strong team which included athletes, coaches and support staff.

Cycling delivered strong international results between 2012-16, including seven world championship titles and 15 Commonwealth Games medals, but "lost its way and got distracted in the final push towards Rio".

The performance review summary found head coach illness in Rio played a role in the challenges and instability within the team environment "particularly when there were some disappointing performances that required leadership, calmness and stability amongst the coaching and management team".

In comparing the 2012 London Olympics to Rio four years later, the review found that the most significant difference was the psychological response from both athletes and staff to the Olympic environment.

"All roles reported an inability to handle stress, or remain focused in the face of setbacks as a primary barrier to performance.

"A stressful and negative environment was described as 'amplified', with staff displaying negative behaviours, people adopting negative attitudes or losing focus on performance process," the review said.

Changes have already been made at Cycling NZ.

High performance director Mark Elliott stepped down after nine years in the role last November, men's endurance coach Tim Carswell also resigning the following month.

The review found that the core ingredients of cycling's high performance programme were there, but it needed better leadership, culture and communication.

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