big dreams of competing, or continuing to compete, on the world stage are under development for some of Central Otago’s promising young athletes.

The Otago Academy of Sport talent xcelerator programme has been completed by athletes in a range of fields, including curling, luge, hockey, netball and cricket, among others.

The programme supports athletes who are tracking towards national and international success, providing them with the skills and knowledge needed to increase their performance.

Topics included nutrition, strength, conditioning and mental agility.
Among those who know the importance of conditioning themselves on and off the sporting arena are Maniototo Area School’s Sam Flanagan (17), Ben Voice (16) and Zoe Harman (16).

Sam and Ben both compete in natural luge and have already started chasing winters between the southern and northern hemispheres.
Late last year, they swapped the New Zealand summer for the chilly temperatures of Italy and Austria.
‘‘We’ve done that for three seasons now,’’ Sam said.

Zoe, who has developed a love of curling over the past two years, competed in the World Junior B Championships in Finland last December.
She returned home in time for Christmas before jetting to Switzerland for the Youth Olympics in January.

The trio have valued their time on the talent xcelerator programme, which they started during lockdown via Zoom.
But, naturally, they took the challenge in their stride and made the most of the experience.
‘‘It [the programme] gets you to that next level of knowledge and thinking. It’s training you to think like an athlete,’’ Ben said.

The trio have big goals.
Ben wants to win the world luge championships, Sam wants to get a ‘‘higher and higher level’’, while Zoe wants to get into the national women’s team and make it to the Olympics.
They recently attended their last programme event at Cromwell and encourage anyone else considering putting their name forward for the next intake to do it.

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