Rower Shakira Mirfin and mountainbiker Josh Burnett have been recognised for a superb 2018 at the annual Academy Southland celebration evening on Wednesday (November 28).
The two talented athletes have picked up the trophies for outstanding overall performance and commitment for Year One (Mirfin) and Year Two (Burnett) of the two-year athlete programme.
Previous winners of the awards include World Tour professional cyclist Tom Scully, New Zealand elite track riders Nick Kergozou and Emma Cumming, triple jumper Greer Alsop and world junior team pursuit rider Corbin Strong.
Academy Southland manager Jason McKenzie said Mirfin had enjoyed a standout first year in the Academy.
“Everyone you talk to says how Shakira sets the standard when they are in gym, and she has shown a great commitment to getting better across the board, whether it be mental skills, strength, athlete life or nutrition,” McKenzie said.
“She’s also had a good year on the water, winning the under 16 single at the Maadi Cup, and finishing runner-up in the under 17s.”
Burnett qualified for the world junior mountainbiking championship despite only switching from BMX two years ago.
While a mechanical issue meant he was not able to achieve the results he was looking for at the world championship, his dedication to getting the most out of the Academy Southland programme drew praise from McKenzie.
“Josh has really developed that appreciation for preparation, that attention to detail, and has really engaged with the programme.”
It’s been a productive year across the board for the Academy, with a number of athletes achieving on the national and international stage.
It was also the first full year that the Academy has been operating the Mike Piper Training Centre at ILT Stadium Southland.
“Having access to the Mike Piper Training Centre really allows us to create that high performance environment for our athletes,” McKenzie said.
“We also hosted a camp this year with Otago, which was another highlight of the year, and we’ve seen the growth of the coaching programme in its third year.
“Developing that next band of coaches is vital to the ongoing success of Southland sport and we’ve been able to expose them to the likes of neuroscience educator and child development expert Nathan Wallis, and change agent Dr Paul Wood, to encourage them to them to think differently about their coaching.”
McKenzie said the Academy had also been able to look beyond its traditional catchment with support from its community funders and commercial partners.
“That ongoing financial support has meant we are able to select a really diverse range of athletes in our programme, from para-athlete Hannah Pascoe through to woodchopper Bobby Dowling and racing driver Jordan Michels.”