Southland mountainbiker has sights set on Olympics

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New Zealand under-23 mountainbike champion Josh Burnett in action. Photo: Supplied

SOUTHLAND’S Josh Burnett is rising through the ranks of New Zealand’s top mountainbikers.

Within the past year, the former Southland Boys’ High School pupil has amassed a New Zealand title, South Island and North Island junior championship titles, competed at the Oceania Championships in Victoria, Australia, and represented New Zealand at the junior world mountainbiking championships in Switzerland.

And the accolades keep coming, with the Southland Mountainbike Club (SMTB) nominating him for Southland Junior Sportsperson of the Year in the ILT Southland Sports Awards this year.

SMTB president Lawrence Kees said since qualifying for the world championships, Burnett had been dominating New Zealand cross-country mountainbike events.

Burnett won the NZ under-23 championship title at the national championships in Rotorua in March, about a minute ahead of his nearest rival, and beating many elite riders in the process.

Burnett said it was his best result to date.

“It was a decent gap.

“It was a really good feeling that all my hard work has paid off.”

Burnett trained about 15-17 hours a week, fitting it around his studies as a first-year law student at the University of Otago.

Training was not so bad if you enjoyed what you were doing, he said.

Burnett competed in BMX for about 10 years from the age of 7, before taking up mountainbiking about three years ago.

And it did not take long before he became one to watch.

Burnett was the overall winner of the Southland Mountainbike Club’s H&J Outdoor World Winter Series last year, and was on his way to winning it a second time after taking out the first winter series race earlier this month.

He credited his recent successes to “lots of training” and his coach Matt Randall.

Burnett said his long-term goal was to represent New Zealand at the Olympics.

Randall said in the past year Burnett had come of age as a rider in strength and maturity.

“He trains the house down and does every session he is supposed to do, and obviously he has a lot of talent.

“It’s all him. I make the plans, but he does the work.”

With his attitude to training and his ability, competing in the Olympics was a definite possibility, he said.

“He is knocking on the door of all the top riders.”

Burnett thanked the SMTB for its support.

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