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A new zone structure for primary sports events in Central Otago will create a stronger pathway for children wanting to be elite athletes, those behind the initiative say.
The changes may also increase the standard of primary school sport at Central Otago championship level, Sport Central co-ordinator Bill Godsall said.
The changes had been prompted by ‘‘huge growth’’ in the number of children attending Central Otago sports championships.
Godsall said the growth had been an issue for several years, with the traditional format of primary school sports not able to cope with "the sheer number of children involved".
Traditionally, pupils would compete in their school sports events, with the top athletes then selected to compete in the Central Otago championships. From that, the top athletes could then choose to attend Otago championships.
But huge numbers at the Central Otago championships had led to children missing out, Godsall said.
Under the new format, schools will compete in their own school championships, with the best athletes then selected for their zone championships. There will be three zones — Wakatipu, Upper Clutha and Dunstan (which will include Alexandra, Cromwell, Maniototo and Teviot Valley schools).
The best athletes from the zones will then be selected for the Central Otago championships, and from there they can choose if they want to compete in the Otago championships.
Goodsall believed the standard at the Central Otago championship level would increase, and parents may decide not to enter their children at the Otago championships.
The new structure will start this term, and funding is being secured to employ a sports co-ordinator to oversee the zone and championship competitions.