WELLINGTON, Feb 29 (Reuters) - Alex Baumann is pulling no punches when it comes to administering funding for New Zealand’s high performance sports programme as they look beyond the London 2012 Olympic Games.
He expects results.
“We have to make some hard decisions on resources in terms of who gets supported,” the new chief executive of High Performance Sports New Zealand (HPSNZ) told Reuters.
”We don’t have enough resources to support everyone to achieve those quality outcomes. I don’t think we will ever have those resources to be able to do that, but I do think sports need to know where they fit and what kind of criteria we need.
“We are giving away significant funds and the sports have to be accountable for those funds.”
The 47-year-old Baumann, who won the 200 and 400 individual medley gold medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, added while he expected the sporting organisations to deliver, his personal approach was not to ‘put them on notice’.
HPSNZ funds nine sports organisations, six of which are Olympic sports.
Of those Olympics disciplines, athletics, cycling, swimming, rowing, triathlon and yachting, their athletes are aiming for the podium or a top-16 placing at the London Games and while some sports have under-performed in recent years, Baumann was not prepared to micro-manage them.
“I’ve always been interventionist as a last resort,” he said.
”I’ve always followed a traffic light system where you have green light sports where we believe that the capacity is there, the performances are there and its just about monitoring them.
“The ones that are amber is where we see some gaps and try to help them fix those gaps and the red ones are those where there are interventions that we have to have but I’ve always thought that is a last resort.”
Baumann is the first chief executive of HPSNZ after it was formed by amalgamating the previous high performance programme run by Sports New Zealand and the New Zealand Academies of Sport last year following a review by the central government.
He only began the job on Jan. 31 after spending the last five years in a similar role for his native Canadian high performance programme.
Prior to that he had spent 15 years in Australia, working at the Queensland Academy of Sport and as chief executive of Queensland Swimming.
HPSNZ centralised administrative functions and established a national high performance centre in Auckland, where he is based, and has had an increase in funding to about NZ$60 million a year.
“The additional resources the government has put in has created a lot of opportunity,” Baumann added.
“If it is managed effectively and targeted properly then its a very good resource.”
While New Zealand’s small population could be a hindrance in terms of being able to generate massive amounts of centralised funding, that ensured creativity in terms of finding solutions to problems, he said.
”Are we as well resourced as the UK? Or Australia? Probably not, but I do think it’s a good start if we manage it effectively.
”There is a willingness to think outside the box in terms of what has to be done.
”It’s a small country and that’s actually a competitive advantage because it’s quite easy to get all the people together.
“The system is pretty nimble and in high performance you do need to make decisions pretty quickly.”
While HPSNZ’s funding criteria focused on athletes who could achieve a podium or top 16 results at the London Games, something Baumann said melded with his own philosophy.
“For me high performance isn’t about egalitarianism. It’s about performance. It’s about trying to be the best you can be,” he said
”I believe that we can compete with the best in the world and in a number of sports New Zealand have done that.
“But they need to aim high.”
(Editing by Ossian Shine; To comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)
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