Focus on athletes’ wellbeing

Nigel Avery is ready to be New Zealand chef de mission. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Nigel Avery is ready to be New Zealand chef de mission. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Olympian and five-time Commonwealth Games medallist Nigel Avery is pledging to bring further focus to athlete wellbeing in his role as New Zealand chef de mission for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Avery, a former New Zealand representative in weightlifting, athletics and bobsleigh, was yesterday named to the role following an extensive recruitment process.

The 54-year-old began his elite sporting journey in shot put and triple jump, but injury cut short his athletics career.

He then turned to bobsleigh and was in the national squad from 1991-96 before discovering a love for weightlifting.

Avery went on to compete in weightlifting at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, as well as the Kuala Lumpur and Manchester Commonwealth Games, where he picked up five medals, including two gold.

His outstanding performances and leadership in Manchester led to selection to carry the New Zealand flag at the closing ceremony.

Since then, Avery has remained involved in sport through governance and coaching roles, notably as Auckland Weightlifting president from 2004-08, and as Millennium Institute of Sport & Health high performance manager from 2003-08.

Avery also led the New Zealand team to the Sydney Youth Olympic festival as chef de mission in 2007 and was a member of the NZOC Athletes’ Commission from 2002-08.

“I’m thrilled to be named chef de mission for Birmingham. It’s an amazing opportunity,” Avery said.

“I’m really looking forward to contributing to the success of the New Zealand team as a whole.

‘‘I’ve had loads of people support me during my career so the opportunity to give back is pretty awesome.”

The chef de mission champions the needs of athletes inside complex and high-performance Games environments, and ensures the New Zealand team promotes athlete mana, wellbeing and performance.

“It’s about helping people succeed, so for me it’s all about the athletes and the structures we can put in place around them to ensure they’re supported and to optimise their performance.’’

Avery is passionate about athlete wellbeing and is pledging to put even more focus on supporting athletes as they work towards Birmingham.

“Athlete wellbeing is an area that I want to bring even more of a focus to,’’ he said.

“I believe if athletes are empowered through an environment where they’re needed, wanted, embraced and nurtured, their wellbeing and performance should be fantastic as a result. The safety, health and wellbeing of our athletes is our No1 priority as a leadership team.”

NZOC chief executive Kereyn Smith said Avery would be an outstanding chef de mission.

“Nigel brings an extensive background of sports experience across various codes and roles, always with a strong interest and focus on athletes, their performance pathway and wellbeing,” Smith said.

“He has all the leadership qualities we are looking for to lead a large and diverse team to Birmingham in these complicated Covid times, having considerable leadership and management experience in New Zealand and overseas.’’

Athletes’ Commission chairwoman Sarah Cowley Ross said Avery understood the significance of the Commonwealth Games to New Zealanders.

“Nigel brings a wealth of knowledge about the athlete journey and will champion our athletes while bringing the whole team together as one,” Cowley Ross said.

“As a young athlete, I remember watching Nigel train ... for the 2002 Commonwealth Games. He inspired a performance culture in the way he role-modelled high performance sport and I’m sure he will bring the same mana to his role leading the New Zealand team.”

Avery lives in Hawke’s Bay with his wife Shelley and three teenage daughters.

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