Olympic champs say performance culture must change after Podmore's death

Source: 1News

Some of New Zealand’s Olympic champions believe a change of culture in high performance sport is needed in light of Olivia Podmore’s death.

Gold medal-winning rowers Emma Twigg and Michael Brake told 1 NEWS it had been tough to process the news of Podmore's sudden death while they were stuck in isolation after returning home from the Tokyo Olympics.

“It was an emotional rollercoaster for sure,” Twigg said.

“There were the highs of the Olympics and then something as tragic as that...I guess when you’re along it hits home a little bit more.

Where to get help, help, lines, helplines, suicide, numbers, number, call, support, get

“She was an amazing person, she was a bubbly, vibrant girl.”

Likewise, Brake said it was hard to process.

“I knew her quite well and it was terrible news,” he said.

“There’s going to be a mixture of celebrations and mourning because she was loved by so many of us.”

There has been growing pressure from current and former athletes for there to be a culture change in high performance sport in New Zealand in light of Podmore’s death.

Olivia Podmore.

Former cyclist Racquel Sheath told 1 NEWS on Sunday Podmore had been bullied and was never treated with dignity and integrity.

“We all end up getting treated like commodities and replaceable,” Sheath said.

Twigg and Brake both believed there was room to change across the board in high performance sport in New Zealand, particularly regarding the treatment of athletes.

“For me it’s knowing that the person at the end of the conversation is human,” Twigg told 1 NEWS today.

“We all go through highs and lows and I’ve certainly had my low moments in sport and I think the people that deliver messages that are tough need to realise the mental state of the person at the other end of the message.

“We’ve definitely got some room to move and it’s sad that Liv’s death has made us all step back and reflect.”

Brake said there needed to be less of a focus on results, and more of a focus on supporting athletes to achieve success.

“I think we can make a lot of positive change in the way the athletes drive the culture,” Brake said.

“We could have quite a strong shift from primarily focusing on results to acknowledging results are great and we want the results, but we don’t need the results.

“If we put a little bit more focus on supporting each other 100 per cent of the time...I think led by the athletes that could be so powerful.”