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New Zealand seeking female talent in push for future medals

BikeNZ is launching the search for more Sarah Ulmers and Alison Shanks. The New Zealand federation put out the call to female athletes including those from a non-cycling background to become part of a talent pool of riders through to the 2012 Olympics in London and beyond.

BikeNZ's Power to the Podium programme is aimed at identifying and selecting female athletes for a development programme. It hopes to at least equal the men's track cycling team achievement of securing two medals at the Beijing Olympics.

High performance director Mark Elliott says BikeNZ wants female athletes from all sports, including current cyclists, who are over the age of 17 to apply. It is keen to hear from those with an endurance background in sports like rowing, running and triathlon.

Elliott says anything is possible for athletes with the right attributes. "Alison Shanks was playing netball four years ago. With just three years cycling experience behind her, she was a contender for an Olympic medal, finishing fourth in Beijing in the 3000 metres individual pursuit."

"This programme provides the opportunity for athletes with the right physiology, desire and talent to become world class track riders," said Elliott

BikeNZ and SPARC are investing in the programme, which will involve a coach, support services for the athletes such as sports science and medicine, training and performance tools, and travel and accommodation for competitions.

SPARC high performance manager Martin Toomey is excited by the initiative. "Talent identification is crucial to ensuring New Zealand has a pool of world class athletes. The Power to the Podium programme will enhance BikeNZ's ability to have a group of talented riders with the potential to win medals in 2012," Toomey said.

Athletes are being invited to apply to BikeNZ until October 1 and can download application forms at . Shortlisted athletes will then be tested, with those selected going to a series of training camps. The first of these will be held in Wanganui over October 27-30.

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