Seventeen-year-old cross country mountain bike sensation Anton Cooper of North Canterbury, New Zealand, signed a multi-year management deal with 23 Degrees Sports this week.
Cooper made headlines earlier this year when, in his first race ever in Europe at round 6 of the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup in the Czech Republic, he won the junior men's cross country race by more than 1:40. He soon backed that up at round 7 in Italy with a win by just over a minute, despite suffering some mechanical issues throughout the race.
Understandably the conquering Kiwi, who his mates call "Coops", was turning some heads in Europe and many were asking where he'd been hiding. He'd actually been busy in New Zealand accruing national and continental titles for the past couple of years, and has been enjoying his racing ever since his father Paul introduced him to the sport when he was 11 years old.
At the world championships in Switzerland this year, an early race incident put him off his bike and off the back and into about 20th position. After entering the singletrack in 16th position, he fought his way back up through the field on the demanding, technical track. Ultimately he sprinted for second and took home the silver medal, the first New Zealand rider in the 22-year history of the mountain bike world championships to ever win a medal in this category.
"2011 was such an amazing experience for me, to be able to finally race with the best juniors on the planet and measure myself against them, and I was so proud to climb on that top step in the Czech Republic," said Cooper.
"To race internationally has been my dream and despite the difficult race at the Worlds, it's all been a great learning experience, and I can't wait to get back out there in 2012. Having the support of 23 Degrees, who have worked with so many great riders, including some from my country like Kashi Leuchs, Justin Leov and Sam Blenkinsop, allows me to focus on the training and the racing, while also finishing my schooling next year."
23 Degrees Sports Management CEO Martin Whiteley commented on Anton's signing. "It's not that often that you meet an athlete that has the whole package so clearly formed and definite at this age. Anton has the perfect balance of climbing prowess, descending skill, commitment, passion and humility to make him a threat in the sport for a long time to come. We are excited and honoured to be working with him, and we'll do all we can to assist him in reaching his goals".
It's been a good week for Cooper, who also won the 2011 Sir Richard Hadlee award for Best Young Sportsman of the Year at the Sport Canterbury awards on Friday.
Cooper also won the Zonta Canterbury Secondary School Best Sportsman, and the Mainland Power North Canterbury Best Sportsman awards earlier in the week.