Olivia Podmore's mother disappointed not to receive formal apology after Cycling NZ review

  • 14/05/2022
Olivia Podmore.
Olivia Podmore. Photo credit: Photosport

The mother of late NZ cyclist Olivia Podmore has said she's disappointed not to have received a formal apology from Cycling New Zealand, after an independent inquiry into the sporting body as a result of her daughter's death.

Last August, Podmore, 24, was found dead in Cambridge, just hours after posting a message on social media about the pressures of being an elite athlete.

Podmore had represented New Zealand at the Rio 2016 Olympics and 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. She qualified for last year's Tokyo Olympics but wasn't selected.

Her death prompted a second independent inquiry into the high-performance system at Cycling NZ, the findings of which were delivered on Friday to members of Podmore's family, including mother Nienke Middleton, by the two leaders of the investigation, Mike Heron QC and Sarah Leberman - as well as Sport NZ chief executive Raelene Castle and Cycling NZ chairman Phil Holden.

Middleton said she believed the findings of the review - which will be released to the public on Monday - failed to recognise the system's impact on her daughter.

"There wasn't really any acknowledgement of any of the harm done to Olivia through being in the programme," Middleton told Stuff.  

"There certainly was some empathy around her death, but that was about it."

Olivia Podmore represented New Zealand at two Commonwealth Games.
Olivia Podmore represented New Zealand at two Commonwealth Games. Photo credit: Getty Images

The investigation follows the Heron-led independent inquiry into Cycling NZ in 2018, which uncovered a culture of bullying led by former coach Anthony Peden, who was allegedly involved in a romantic relationship with one of his athletes.

The report said Podmore was among those athletes pressured into providing "false accounts" to protect Peden and the now former athlete, which Middleton believed had a significant effect on her daughter.

Middleton's husband, Chris, questioned the level of meaningful changes as a result of the original 2018 report.

"[The issues in Cycling NZ] should never have needed to be readdressed," he told Stuff. "The first report made it quite clear where the issues are. It was a very strongly worded document.

"We read in annual reviews and releases in years gone by that the review was taken very seriously. According to all [Cycling NZ's] statements a lot of wellbeing initiatives were put in place, the proper steps were put in place. 

"It begs the question - well, why are we here?"

Since Podmore's death, Cycling NZ's chief executive, high performance director and sprint head coach have all left the organisation.

Middleton hoped there would be more accountability and transparency within Cycling NZ so "no other parent has to go through what we have been through".

Still in touch with some of the riders, Middleton has been told by one the new coaching staff has brought with it a positive shift in the team environment.

"She said the new coach is really great and Livi would have responded so well to him," she told Stuff. "She would have thrived. 

"It makes me sad to hear that because that is all she wanted - to be given a chance to thrive."