Cycling inquiry: Plan to include focus on women's health

Olivia Podmore represented New Zealand in cycling at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and the Gold Coast...
Olivia Podmore represented New Zealand in cycling at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018. Photo: Getty Images
High Performance Sport New Zealand has released a 10-point action plan in response to the independent inquiry report, which was commissioned following the death of cyclist Olivia Podmore.

Olivia Podmore represented New Zealand in cycling at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018.  The 24-year-old from Christchurch died in August last year.

The report made more than 90 recommendations for HPSNZ and Cycling New Zealand to consider.

After reviewing the report and undertaking consultation with staff who are working and living in the daily high performance environments, HPSNZ has developed the action plan to address the recommendations specifically related to either HPSNZ or the broader high performance system.

The plan includes various wellbeing initiatives, steps to improve alignment between regional and national pathways, improved data management systems and the appointment of a Women's Health Lead.

HPSNZ chief executive Raelene Castle says the report highlights the importance of ensuring wellbeing is at the heart of high performance sport, and HPSNZ is absolutely aligned with that view.

"We have acknowledged publicly that more needs to be done to ensure that HPSNZ and NSOs are creating environments where wellbeing and success can co-exist without compromise.

"We believe this action plan will achieve this focus, with HPSNZ and NSOs working together to place a direct emphasis on physical and mental wellbeing across the high performance system."

The report acknowledged the existing individual and organisational commitment to wellbeing within HPSNZ, and Raelene Castle says HPSNZ believes there is a strong alignment between the report's recommendations and the initiatives in HPSNZ's current strategy.

"We already have a lot of great work underway, including initiatives to further invest in athlete wellbeing, athlete voice and athlete pathways. This action plan will build on this and enable us to work towards a high performance system that athletes and high performance staff have told us they are looking for.

"This will be a team effort. We will work with Cycling New Zealand and other sports to implement the plan to further support athletes, coaches and support staff to ensure their training and performance environments are allowing them to thrive and succeed."

Cycling New Zealand says it accepts the recommendations in the report and has committed to a comprehensive response. In doing so, CNZ reinforces its full commitment to ensuring a high-performance culture in its sport that is athlete-centred and upholds the highest standards of ethics, integrity and welfare.

"It is important, as we move forward, to reinforce our total commitment to the wellbeing and care of our athletes and performance staff, whilst continuing to strive for high performance results that inspire our cycling community and Kiwis from across Aotearoa," said Cycling New Zealand chairman Phil Holden.

A cornerstone of the response is the commitment to establish a five-member steering committee to provide oversight and monitoring in the implementation of the recommendations.

"Today is a milestone in our planning process, in that we are delighted to announce that the Cycling Integrity Steering Committee will be established and will be chaired by the Hon Kit Toogood QC. He has recently completed sitting as a High Court Judge for more than 11 years. He will bring a wealth of experience, integrity and mana to the committee," says Smith.

Toogood is a member of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, a foundation deputy chair of the New Zealand Sports Tribunal, and has considerable experience in mediation, arbitration, and investigations.

He will take up the role of independent chairperson, appointed by CNZ and endorsed by Sport NZ. Toogood will be joined by two athlete representatives and a representative each from Sport New Zealand and Cycling New Zealand. The committee will be fully appointed in the coming weeks.

The HPSNZ 10-point action plan will be monitored by the HPSNZ board on a quarterly basis.

Action plan

• Implement a systematic approach to monitoring wellbeing, and responding to issues:

• Implement athlete voice mechanisms at NSO and national level and ensure they are working effectively, so athletes have the opportunity to be heard on decisions that affect them.

• Agree wellbeing measurement benchmarks and identify and/or develop measurement and recording tools. Ensure athlete contracts are appropriate with clearly outlined minimum standards.

• Confirm that clear escalation processes are in place and understood by athletes.

• Work with NSOs to improve alignment between regional development and national pathways to ensure clarity on what support can be provided to athletes (including pre-HP athletes) and coaches in regional training environments close to their home, whānau and support networks.

• Review and monitor the approach to all transitions, including at the time of selections, ensuring there is a consistent and transparent approachacross all sports. This information will form part of an athlete's induction and be published on the HPSNZ website. It will have a particular focus on preparing athletes to transition successfully from a pre-HP to a high performance environment.

• Review and refine the HPSNZ/NSO onboarding process for all athletes, especially those moving into a centralised programme, to ensure it is athlete and whānau centred with appropriate access to support for all athletes.

• Work with NSOs to require all athletes to have a holistic, transparent and regularly monitored Individual Performance Plan (IPP).

• Prioritise and invest further in the Women's Health and Women in High Performance Sport leadership and initiatives within the 2024 strategy, to advance wider objectives for women in high performance sport. This includes appointing a Women's Health Lead to implement initiatives that continue to raise awareness of issues impacting the performance and wellbeing of female athletes.

• Improve HPSNZ's data management system to ensure accuracy of information. This will enhance the ability to use data effectively to track an athlete's progress along the performance pathway, and to facilitate the management of issues (e.g. health issues) while ensuring appropriate data security.

• Focus on further developing leadership capability at every level within the high performance sport system - boards, CEs, coaches, athletes, support staff. This could include minimum requirements to undertake training that will complement existing programmes (e.g. Coaching Core Knowledge, Te Hāpaitanga).

• Refine HPSNZ's KPIs to include the above initiatives as key priorities between now and the 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games and beyond, to ensure meaningful and measurable progress.

• Work with Cycling NZ to ensure both organisations are aligned with the implementation of the inquiry recommendations


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