Tokyo Olympics: Kiwi stars flying under the radar

While the likes of Valerie Adams, Peter Burling and Lisa Carrington are household names, there are plenty of other talented Kiwi athletes to watch out for at the Olympics.

Lewis Clareburt (Swimming - 200m and 400m individual medley)

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The young swimmer smashed the national record for the 400m individual medley. Source: 1 NEWS

The 22-year-old Wellingtonian is arguably the most exciting Kiwi prospect in the pool in a generation. Tokyo will be his debut Olympics, where he will compete in the 200m and 400m individual medleys. A bronze medallist in the 400IM at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Clareburt has been in career-best form this year, smashing his personal bests in both distances, and broke the national and Oceania record in the 400IM. That swim, at the national championships in April, is the third fastest time of anyone in the world this year. He will likely need to swim even faster to medal in Tokyo, but given his form as of late it's certainly not out of the question.

Ellesse Andrews (Cycling - track)

Cyclist Ellesse Andrews could be one to watch at the Tokyo Olympics. Source: Photosport

A former junior world champion, 21-year-old Andrews has cycling in her blood - her father is 1992 Olympic cyclist Jon Andrews - and looks set to have a storied career in the sport. Andrews showed remarkable skills across both sprint and endurance at the 2016 junior world championships, winning a gold medal in the team sprint and a bronze in the individual pursuit. She converted that to a gold medal the following year to earn the Emerging Talent honours at the 2018 Halberg Awards. The young athlete has since refocussed on sprinting with significant success, winning in the keirin at the Oceania Championships in 2020. She will compete in the sprint and keirin events in Tokyo.

Lauren Bruce and Julia Ratcliffe (Athletics - hammer throw)

Lauren Bruce and Julia Ratcliffe are set to take Tokyo by storm. Source: Photosport

It has been 21 years since New Zealand was last represented in the women’s hammer throw at the Olympics – when Tasha Williams competed in Sydney. But now there are two more - in Lauren Bruce and Julia Ratcliffe - both of whom are exciting talents. The pair have spent the past year fighting over the Oceania record. Bruce’s effort last September was beaten by Ratcliffe in March, before Bruce took it back again last month, smashing the record by over a metre in a throw that would have earnt a bronze medal in Rio. It all sets the stage for a fascinating contest in Tokyo, as the two Kiwis fight for a medal against the world’s best.

Sam Tanner (Athletics - 1500m)

Sam Tanner Source: Photosport

While Nick Willis will remarkably be making his 5th Olympic appearance in the 1500m, this time he will line up alongside his successor, 21-year-old Sam Tanner. Willis has been Tanner’s mentor and hero, and the elder statesman has said New Zealand’s middle-distance running is in “great hands” going forward with Tanner. Earlier this year, Tanner broke Willis’ national indoor record by over a second to qualify for Tokyo, while he is also the youngest Kiwi in history to break the four-minute mile barrier. The future is bright for the young man from Papamoa.

Jordan Parry (Rowing - single sculls)

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Fellow Tauranga Boys alumni Jordan Parry will be New Zealand's male representative in single sculls at the Tokyo Olympics. Source: 1 NEWS

One of the more inexperienced and lesser known names of the New Zealand rowing squad heading to Tokyo, Parry has proven he can compete with the world’s best, having beaten Mahe Drysdale to the singles scull spot on the team. That is no mean feat considering he only transferred to the single boat two years ago from the quad. His first major international outing in the single will actually be at the Olympics, but having dominated two-time gold medallist Drysdale in the Olympic trials, he could emerge as a true dark horse in Tokyo, not just to fans but even to his fellow competitors.

Maddi Wesche (Athletics - shot put)

Maddi Wesche could be the successor to Valerie Adams. Source: Photosport

Valerie Adams is in the twilight of her career, but New Zealand’s shot put future looks to be in good hands with the emergence of Maddi Wesche. The 22-year-old is a former U20 world champion and won the Emerging Talent award at the 2019 Halberg Awards. Only by smashing her own personal best will she get into medal contention in Tokyo, but Wesche will be one to watch for years to come, and Kiwis will be given the chance to see the baton being passed down from one generation to another.

Erika Fairweather (Swimming - 400m freestyle)

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The Kavanagh College swimmer was officially named in the NZ Olympic team at a school assembly. Source: 1 NEWS

In Fairweather and Clareburt, New Zealand’s swim team have an exciting young core. The 17-year-old Dunedin student is a magnificent freestyle swimmer, a junior world champion, and a potential superstar in the pool for years to come. Fairweather was the youngest swimmer at the 2019 World Championships to make the top 20 for the 200m and 400m freestyle distances, and went on to win gold in the 200m freestyle at the junior worlds the following month. A swim in Tokyo to rival American legend Katie Ledecky is unrealistic, but a couple of strong swims could be good enough to advance to the semi-finals and possibly even the final – no mean feat given Fairweather’s young age.

David Nyika (Boxing - heavyweight)

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Parker will have Nyika as a sparring partner as he prepares to fight Junior Fa while Nyika is using the camp to push for Tokyo. Source: 1 NEWS

Nyika is no stranger to success on the international stage. The 26-year-old won back-to-back gold medals at the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games, and is now looking to make the next leap onto an Olympic podium. Nyika made his professional debut earlier this year on the undercard for the Joseph Parker v Junior Fa bout and impressed, knocking out Jesse Maio in the first round. While Nyika has not had the same success in previous World Championships, he certainly has the talent to go a long way in the competition.


Medal contenders

Going for gold: New Zealand's leading medal contenders in Tokyo

International stars

Tokyo Olympics: The international stars set to shine

How to watch

Tokyo Olympics fact file: Where, when and how to watch