News & Updates

25 May 2023 • High Performance

New athletes named in the Performance Development Squad

Some 31 athletes have been named in the latest intake for the Athletics New Zealand Performance Development Squad. The image is of a previous PDS.

A new intake of 31 athletes will feature in the Athletics NZ Performance Development Squad. The PDS is a two-year programme for emerging athletes demonstrating future performance potential. PDS members receive invitations to relevant camps; and planning support to assist with learning the fundamentals of developing performance.

A huge congratulations to the 31 athletes, (coach in brackets) see below:

Kiera Hall (Angie Petty) – Christchurch – Distance 

Karsen Vesty (Richard Potts) – Hawke’s Bay – Distance

James Ford (Perry Cunningham) – Auckland – Distance

Christian De Vaal (Nick Codyre) – Auckland – Distance

Adam Stack (James Sandilands) – Christchurch – Jumps

Mia Powell (James Mortimer) – Auckland – Sprints

Lex Revell-Lewis (Nuree Greenhalgh) – Auckland – Sprints

Talia van Rooyen (Melanie and Johan van Rooyen) – Auckland – Sprints

Liam Ngchok-Wulf (John Eden) – Auckland – Throws

Suzannah Kennelly (Mark Kennelly) – Auckland – Throws

Harrison McGregor (Kirsten Hellier) – Tauranga – Throws

Nadja Kumerich (John Eden) – Auckland – Throws

Max Abbot (Hayden Hall) – Christchurch – Throws

Douw Botes (John Eden) – Auckland – Throws

Angus Lyver (James Sandilands) – Christchurch – Combined Events

Addira Collette (George McConachy and Lauren Collette) – Manawatu – Sprints

Chayille Collette (George McConachy and Lauren Collette)– Manawatu – Sprints

Sarah James (Blanche Herbert) – Christchurch – Sprints

Una Kinajil-Reding (Hayden Hall) – Christchurch – Throws

Paddy Walsh (Hamish Meacheam) – Auckland – Sprints/Jumps

Sionnan Murphy (Walter Gill) – Auckland – Throws

Zachary Orbell (Johan Fourie) – Auckland – Sprints/Jumps

Rorie Poff (Hayden Hall) – Christchurch – Throws

Jaxon Woolley (Kerry Hill) – Tauranga – Sprints/Jumps

Gabrielle Wright (James Kuegler) – Auckland – Sprints

Percy Maka (John Maka) – Auckland – Throws

Blessing Sefo (John Eden) – Auckland – Throws

Ben Walker (Chris Walker) – Nelson – Jumps

Rafe Couillault (Brent Booker) – Auckland – Jumps

Boh Ritchie (Angela Russek) – Hamilton – Distance

Jonah Cropp (Rozie Robinson) – Christchurch – Walks

To find more about the Performance Development Squad go here

Dozens of athletes have gone through the PDS including conditionally selected World Athletics Championship athletes; pole vaulter Olivia McTaggart and 100m sprinter Tiaan Whelpton and leading 2023 Para Athletics World Championship bound sprinter Danielle Aitchison. Read their thoughts on being a part of the camp and how it served a positive influence on their respective careers.

Danielle Aitchison

For double Tokyo Paralympic medallist Danielle Aitchison she believes her time as part of the Performance Development squad in 2018-19 accelerated her understanding of what it took to be a high performance athlete.

The 21-year-old sprinter, who won 200m silver and 100m T36 bronze at the Tokyo Paralympics, reflects positively on her time in the squad and adds: “I found that the squad helped to develop me mentally and understand better the demands of being a high-performance athlete. I learned many valuable skills and knowledge from the camps and workshops that have added to my toolkit.” 

She recalls camps in both Auckland and Christchurch as being both fun and great source of knowledge as an athlete and the experience as providing an invaluable insight into life on athletics tours.

“I think that some of the biggest learnings I took was regarding how to be a better athlete in general so understanding nutrition skills, mental skills, and life skills all of which contribute to learning and understanding how to be a better athlete.” 

Danielle also recalls the excitement of getting to know other athletes from around New Zealand and to the current crop of 31 athletes that form the Performance Development squad she adds: “I would say to other athletes to take it all in and take all the learnings and opportunities offered because you learn so much and you never know what you can add to your toolkit.”

Tiaan Whelpton

For New Zealand men’s 100m champion Tiaan Whelpton being a part of the Performance Development Squad instilled in him the importance of building healthy routines which has stood him in good stead in his development as a senior athlete.

Tiaan, who ran a 100m PB of 10.14 in Yokohama, Japan last weekend, joined the PDS (then known as Pathway to Podium) in 2019 and he quickly embraced the value of being a part of the squad.

“I was taught lots of super valuable lessons attending the camps and through the workshops,” he said. “I was taught the basics on how to be a high performance athlete, focusing on recovery and how to be an independent athlete.

“What stuck in my mind was the importance of building healthy routines and good habits, so the point it almost becomes automatic.”

To this day he has maintained good discipline and a clear routine on race day – which includes, for Tiaan, a big breakfast, motivational music “drum n bass” and a cold shower before heading to the track.

Tiaan also revelled as a squad member where he could come together with other like-minded athletes in a team environment.

“Athletics is not a team sport, so to be part of a larger squad it felt like you are a part of a team and get that sense of belonging, which is really cool. I really enjoyed the PDS camps because of the social aspect and making new friends through a shared interest.”

Yet reflecting on his time as part of the squad, the 23-year-old Christchurch-based sprinter says critically it taught him the importance of focusing on the basics.

“Sometimes athletes become too focused in their early development on the one per centers. The need to go for a massage and taking the right supplements. But initially the focus should be on the basics such as good sleep, recovery, eating healthy and keeping hydrated. Once you have the foundation nailed then you can look at the one per centers,” he adds.

Olivia McTaggart

For New Zealand international pole vaulter Olivia McTaggart her time as part of the PDS introduced her to the possibility of a career in track and field. A part of the squad from 2016-17 at the time the Aucklander, who placed fourth at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, was a young, emerging athlete which crystallised in her the belief and confidence that athletics could be a future option.

“At that time of your life you spend time with your non-athletics friends who are all on that similar path of school, university and then job. But to be around like-minded athletes as part of the squad who are training every day and having conversations about the sacrifices required to perform to your best was a big part of the squad. It introduced me to how being a full-time athlete might look like and how to work on a number of areas to reach the goals that I had made.”

Olivia, who vaulted a PB and World Championship entry standard of 4.71m at the Auckland Championships in March, believes being a part of the PDS also gave her the confidence to gain a proper understanding of her own training.

“At a young age it is easy to follow the crowd but being a part of the squad allowed me to understand how to have those conversations with coaches to better understand myself as an athlete, which has served me well throughout my time in the sport,” she adds.

Believing her time in the PDS aided her transition into senior athletics and performing on the international stage, Olivia has some simple advice for the current crop of PDS athletes.

“Just enjoy it,” she adds. “It is likely that many of these athletes will develop with you throughout your career, so get to know them, have fun and don’t be too hard on yourself.”