Sport Waitaki’s newest regional coordinator is University of Waikato alumna, former Sir Edmund Hillary Scholar, and champion cyclist Pip Sutton.
Pip, who only two months ago officially retired from competitive cycling, is relishing her new role and the change in scenery from Waikato to Otago.
As sport coordinator, Pip’s role is broad: to help people in the Otago district get active. And despite her background in high performance sport, Pip says it’s not about winning, but simply getting the body moving.
“My focus in this role is encouraging people to just move their body and reaping the health benefits that come with it. Sport and movement aren’t just for elite athletes, they’re for everybody to enjoy.”
After getting serious about cycling in her final year at Hamilton’s Waikato Diocesan, Pip has represented New Zealand at several World Cups overseas, was selected for the New Zealand track cycling squad for the 2016 Rio Olympics, and up until recently was travelling to the US each year to compete in the USA Crits cycling series.
Along with the sporting experience she brings to her new role, Pip is also putting her Sport and Leisure Studies degree to good use. She graduated in 2014 from the University of Waikato, where she studied for three years as a Sir Edmund Hillary Scholar.
Named in honour of New Zealand’s greatest adventurer, the Hillary Scholarship is the University’s most prestigious scholarship and supports students to grow and achieve in their sport or creative or performing art, academic achievement, and leadership.
“I majored in sport and leisure studies and biological sciences which combined two of my interests – sport and science. Now, I’m finding both useful in my role at Sport Waitaki – helping people stay active, but also understanding the physical side of what might be stopping people from being active and how to overcome that,” says Pip.
Pip’s decision to retire from cycling was partly brought on by Covid-19. She was scheduled to travel to the US to race, but when travel restrictions made that difficult she realised she was ready for another challenge.
“I’ve been racing for 10 years and I just thought, I can’t be a high-performance athlete forever and continue to push my body to its limits.
“When this job came up and my coach encouraged me to apply, I thought why not – sport is what I know and I’m in a position where I can move and make the most of a new opportunity. I’m loving it so far and everyone I’ve met has been really friendly and welcoming.”
Embracing change and rising to challenges
Pip attributes a lot of her willingness to embrace change and difficult situations to the support she received as a Hillary Scholar. In addition to the scholarship, academic support, and sports and creative arts coaching, scholars also receive leadership training and regular personal development opportunities.
“In that sense it wasn’t too difficult leaving my friends and family, my support system, to come down here for this role,” says Pip.
“The Hillary Programme was always really ahead of the curve with personal development and building resilience, as well as looking after you as a whole – not just as an athlete or performer.”
While she says she’ll miss the thrill of winning and achieving at a high level, she’s looking forward to giving her body a bit of a rest.
“That’s not to say I’ll stop cycling completely, I still absolutely love it and so thankful for where it’s taken me, but I’m definitely ready for this next chapter.”