Olympians feel the love

Cambridge sprint cyclist Ellesse Andrews is grateful to the local community as she gears up for the Paris Olympic Games, which kick off on July 26.

“Thank you, everyone, for all of your support,” she said.

From left Jon Andrews, Olivia King, Rebecca Petch, Shaane Fulton and Ellesse Andrews

“People come down and watch training and support the velodrome and all that kind of stuff and that all helps us, here at Cycling New Zealand.”

Andrews, 24, has lived in Cambridge since she was 16.

“Crazy, it’s honestly, potentially the longest that I have lived in one place in New Zealand,” she said.

“I moved around a lot in my childhood and I think I’ve been here the longest so, yeah, it definitely is home to me.

“I love living here.  I have an awesome place and, you know, lots of friends, a great partner and I think all of those things really bring together that sense of community.”

She is currently flatting with other athletes but said she and her partner, Cambridge High School physical education teacher Josh Toa, were thinking about moving in together towards the end of this year.

Andrews was speaking to The News at the Cambridge Grassroots Trust Velodrome last Wednesday, where New Zealand’s 16-strong track and road cycling team for the Paris Olympics was officially named.

Tom Sexton with the plant he was given when he went up on stage at the Velodrome after being named in the NZ team. He is standing beside a table where a French-themed afternoon tea was laid out for the athletes and guests

More than 100 people gathered to celebrate with the athletes and enjoy a French-themed afternoon tea.

“It’s really special,” Andrews said.

“I think, you know, to look out onto the seats, into the crowd, and see so many family members of so many of my friends and teammates, it’s a really special place to be in.”

The Tokyo Olympics silver medallist will race in Paris in the New Zealand women’s sprint cycling team with Rebecca Petch, who has lived in Te Awamutu all her life, and Shaane Fulton, originally from Nelson.

Petch, 25, will become a double Olympian after representing New Zealand in BMX at the Tokyo Olympics, where she finished 12th.

She announced her transition to track cycling in late 2022.

New Zealand sprit cyclist Ellesse Andrews being interviewed at the Velodrome on the day of the official team announcement. This photo was taken shortly before the event ended. Ellesse was in demand and spent more than an hour talking to a queue of journalists.

“I travelled a lot with BMX by myself and it wasn’t as fun and it kind of felt like a chore a little bit sometimes, so I guess the idea of being in a team with the track, training with people every day really excited me,” she said.

“The vibe’s so cool coming to training, it’s so much fun, the girls are all just really good friends and we all get along really well and support each other.”

Track endurance cyclist Tom Sexton, who is originally from Invercargill, being interviewed at the official team announcement at the Velodrome.

Her team’s travelling reserve, Hamilton cyclist Olivia King, agreed.

“The four of us, we get on so well and you come to training with your mates every day,” the 23-year-old said.  “Not many people are lucky enough to do that really, so it’s special.”

King’s mother, Darlene Gifford, spoke of the “blood, sweat and tears” that went into high performance sport.

Ellesse Andrews, who took silver at the Tokyo Olympics, being interviewed at the Velodrome after being named in New Zealand’s track sprint team for the Paris Olympic Games.

“Sometimes there are incredible highs, sometimes there are really crap times, and as a parent that’s hard to watch – sometimes it’s great to watch – but it is what it is,” she said.

“At the end of the day, we’re super proud of [Olivia] and of all the girls.”

Tom Sexton, who bought a house in Cambridge with his partner Anna Wilkinson last year, grew up in Invercargill and moved here when he was 18.

“There’s a good support around high performance athletes in the community here, so it’s quite nice,” he said.

 

Now 25, he is feeling “very excited” about his Olympic debut, where he will join Aaron Gate, Campbell Stewart and Keegan Hornblow in the men’s track endurance team.

“The Olympics is the pinnacle of sport, so it’s always been the pinnacle in my mind,” he said.

 

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