Two Southlanders named in NZ Olympic track team

Two Southland riders have been named in a 15-strong track cycling team for next year's Tokyo Olympics.

Corbin Strong (20) has been selected in the men’s endurance squad and will compete in the team pursuit, Madison and omnium, while Kirstie James has made the women’s endurance team.

James, who was born in Auckland, began her sporting life as a rower but switched codes in 2012.

The 31-year-old studied in Dunedin but it was not until she shifted to Invercargill her career began to flourish.

She helped New Zealand claim team pursuit bronze medals at the world championships in Hong Kong in 2017 and Poland last year, and was also part of the team which won silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Strong has had an impressive couple of years.

He was part of the New Zealand team which secured gold at the junior world championship in Switzerland in 2018 and silver at the world championship in Berlin earlier this year.

He also upset the field to win gold in the points race a day after he claimed silver in Berlin.

Last month he produced an impressive performance to finish fourth in the Tour of Southland.

Former Wanaka rider Ellesse Andrews has been named in the women’s sprint team. Her father, Jon Andrews, claimed bronze medals in the sprint and time trial at the 1990 Commonwealth Games.

Aaron Gate, Ethan Mitchell, Rushlee Buchanan and Jaime Nielsen will be competing in their third Olympics, while nine riders will be making their Olympic debuts.

The team includes Rio medallists Sam Webster and Mitchell, points race world champion Strong and six former world champions in Gate, Mitchell, Webster, Campbell Stewart, Regan Gough and Jordan Kerby.

Sam Dakin, who had a taste of world cup experience last summer, replaces the retired Eddie Dawkins in the men's team sprint and will ride alongside three-time world champions Webster and Mitchell.

The men’s pursuit team is ranked second in the world and the women’s pursuit team is ranked third, so expectations are high.

Of the other endurance riders, Campbell Stewart is ranked third in the omnium and the New Zealand men are ranked No2 in the two-rider Madison.

Andrews is ranked fifth in the world in the keirin and the men's team sprint is ranked eighth.

Gate said he was thrilled to be heading to his third Olympic Games.

"This is a big step towards the Olympic Games so it's a really special milestone for us," he said.

"Being named means that despite all the stuff going on in the world, we can continue with our plan for Tokyo, put all our hard work to good use and really focus on putting our best foot forward."

New Zealand  track team

For Tokyo Olympics
Women’s endurance: Bryony Botha, 
Rushlee Buchanan, Holly Edmondston, 
Jessie Hodges, Kirstie James, Jaime 
Nielsen.
Women’s sprint: Ellesse Andrews.
Men’s endurance: Aaron Gate, Regan 
Gough, Jordan Kerby, Campbell 
Stewart, Corbin Strong.
Men’s sprint: Sam Dakin, Ethan 
Mitchell, Sam Webster. 

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