Young Christchurch sports stars set sights on ambitious goals

An ultra-talented cyclist and sailor reigned supreme on the roads of Hokitika and off Napier’s coastline recently and can now reset their sporting goals for further afield.

Sumner’s Amelia Sykes, one of New Zealand’s leading age group cyclists, has set her sights on the track cycling junior world championships in Tel Aviv, Israel, in August, while Will Leech (Charteris Bay) is focused on mastering a new sailing class after claiming back-to-back national optimist titles over Anzac weekend.

Promising middle distance athlete Kiera Hall wasn’t competing over the long weekend, but the 17-year-old from Mt Pleasant also has overseas travel on her agenda after the national under-18 800m champion was recently selected to represent New Zealand at meets in Australia and South America.

Leech, the junior member of the sporting trio at 13, would have joined Sykes and Harris in heading abroad but he has opted against representing New Zealand at the world optimist championships on Bodrum, Turkey, in June-July.

A member of the Charteris Bay Yacht Club, Leech was eligible for the world championships for a third successive year but concerns over Covid-19 have again scuppered those plans.

“We’ve made the decision not to send him to Turkey, basically it’s a bit dodgy traveling internationally,” said Leech’s father Dan, after Will dominated the final four races of the regatta to retain his crown.

The year 9 Christ’s College student will now focus on the two-man 29er skiff.

“The goal is to get to the youth worlds when he’s a little bit older,” Dan Leech said.

“He was very good about it, he wants to put the resources into the next stage of his sailing. We’ve just sold his optimist and we’ve bought a pretty nice 29er. ”

Sykes, 17, made a smooth transition from a successful national track cycling campaign in Cambridge last month, where she won five golds, by claiming the under-19 time trial and road race double on the West Coast.

Sykes, who won five national track titles, edged Seana Gray (Te Awamutu Sports) in a sprint finish at the climax of a 97.5km circuit around Lake Mahinapua on Saturday.

“I was holding on for dear life. I don’t know where I found that sprint, but I did, ”she said.

“I blacked out a meter before the line, I threw everything at it, I didn’t even know where the line was.”

Sykes was more dominant in the time trial, defending the title she won in Rotorua last year, by completing the 15km endurance test more than a minute clear of her closest challenger.

She is now rapt to look forward to Israel after Covid-19 prevented New Zealand by sending a squad to last year’s junior world champs in Egypt.

“I’m so stoked to be selected for that. I think we’ll have a really good opportunity to get in there and hopefully have a good TP (team pursuit), ”she said.

“Last year we didn’t get to go, so it’s awesome.”

Hall, from the Port Hills Athletics Club, continues to make impressive strides since she started competitive running two years ago.

She will represent New Zealand at the Oceania Championships at Mackay, North Queensland, in June, ideal preparation for August’s world under-20 championships in Cali, Colombia.

Hall is trained in Christchurch by Rio 2016 Olympian and two-time Commonwealth Games 800m-1500m runner Angie Petty.

The Rangi Ruru student has previously raced over 400m but prefers the longer journey.

” The 800, for me, is a tactical race where you have to get yourself in the position to win, whereas the 400 is just too quick a race, ” she said.

Hall, who juggles her studies with a six-day a week training program, hoped to improve on her personal best of 2min 8.46sec during her overseas experiences.

-By Chris Barclay and Mick Jensen

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