In a few days the Olympic Games in Rio will start. For best possible preparations the track cycling team of New Zealand came to Zurich for an intensive training camp. While they were cycling on the open-air track in Oerlikon they stayed at VISIONAPARTMENTS. We’ve met two of the athletes, Sam Webster and Natasha Hansen, for an interview. Read about how they’ve experienced the city, what they say about traveling and what they are seeking in Rio. Sam Webster, 25, has been cycling for 7 years for the New Zealand track cycling team. He’s three times Junior World Champion and two times World Champion in the team sprint. Natasha Hansen, 26, has been in the team off and on for the last 9 years. After two years away from the sport she returned and has now been selected for Rio 2016.
What do you like most about this sport?
NH: I’ve been pretty fortunate to travel the world for the sake of sports and to meet so many amazing people. After I went to the Junior World Championships I was offered a scholarship in the cycling team in Switzerland and it was an amazing experience. If it wasn’t for cycling I wouldn’t have these great opportunities.
SW: Track cycling is very measureable. You can get time splits from the different segments of a lap and all the power readings from how hard you are pushing on the pedal. To have all of this data and to be able to analyze it, means you can always push yourself harder and find out how to go faster – that’s the challenge of this sport.
What would you be doing now if you were not a cyclist?
SW: I’ll probably be at university full time studying finance.
NH: I’ll be an air traffic controller, which is my primary job.
You’ve been selected for the Olympic Games 2016, congratulations! What goals do you have for Rio?
SW: We are heading for the Olympic Games as current World Champions and we hope to do everything in our power to win a gold medal. I hope to do the same for the individual races. Nobody is going to the Olympics for the second place.
NH: I agree. Everyone that goes to the Olympics goes with the intention to win a medal, so I guess it goes without saying. I just hope I’ll give the best performance that I can and hope my best performance is good enough to get a medal.
Sam and Natasha in action.
Do you have any rituals or lucky charms for important races?
NH: I don’t have any lucky charms. However I do have a very specific routine through the day when it comes to nutrition, I usually eat oats and apples with lots of cinnamon on top.
SW: I am not really a sentimental person so I don’t have any lucky charms or anything. As part of my preparations I have a really controlled warm-up, so every time you go through the same process and that gets you into the right mindset to go out and race.
Checking the bike is part of the routine.
You are here in Zurich for a training camp before the big games. What do you like most about this city?
SW: Zurich is a great city to walk around and explore. My favorite part is the old town down by the lake with a lot of restaurants and cafés. We even went to the Zurich Festival and that was absolutely amazing! I’ve never seen something like this.
NH: Zurich is just amazing! I’ve been to Switzerland before so I knew how nice and friendly the people are and I was looking forward to come back. I feel like everybody is very respectful of one another and it’s a nice and peaceful environment for us to train. Also the city is stunning and it’s such a nice scenery at the lake. And I love Crêpes and chocolate – they have it everywhere.
What has surprised you most about this country? And what’s the biggest difference compared to New Zealand?
SW: New Zealand is completely surrounded by water and we have a lot of beaches and the lifestyle that goes with it. The same goes with our outfits, we dress casual with sandals and t-shirts whereas in Switzerland everybody is dressed very nicely – even in summer when it’s hot. But what surprised me most about Switzerland is that people at the pedestrian crossing just step out and the cars will stop. Incredible!
You are staying with VISIONAPARTMENTS. Tell us about your stay.
NH: Usually we stay at hotels where we don’t have cooking facilities and often share rooms with one another. It’s really nice to have our own space at VISIONAPARTMENTS and to be able to cook. The apartments are very nice, so this trip is a bit of a luxury for us. We feel very comfortable here and the customer service is just great. The central location of the building close to the lake and the city center is very convenient.
SW: It’s amazing to have an apartment where you can truly experience the proper amenities of home. To have a communal area where you can meet other people or enjoy a coffee makes the stay even more enjoyable. We are very happy to stay here and already feel as a part of the VISIONAPARTMENTS community.
What do you need to feel at home away from home?
SW: To have the availability to do whatever you would be doing at home – weather it’s cooking a meal, relaxing with friends or watching TV. VISIONAPARTMENTS offers everything you need.
NH: I need familiarity to feel at home. Having the kitchen facilities is helping because we can cook food just like at home. Nutrition is a big part of our preparations as well and it’s good that we are able to follow our routines. Nevertheless I feel like I have been eating a little bit too much chocolate since I am here in Switzerland (laughs and covers her mouth).
You travel a lot for sports. What do you like most about traveling and what is rather annoying?
NH: What I like most about traveling is being able to see different parts of the world and go to places where we wouldn’t necessarily go if it wasn’t for cycling. It’s also nice to get to know other cultures and see how other people live. The downside is probably that New Zealand is quite far away from the rest of the world, so we have very long travels and we spend quite a long time recovering from the travel.
SW: It’s always annoying checking in at the airport and the time you spend there is rather tedious. Other than that I love everything: to explore new places, to meet new people and to see the world is a great experience. I really enjoy being able to do all these things.
Do you have any personal tips for more comfortable traveling?
SW: Buy some noise-cancelling headphones, that’s my number one tip.
NH: We have routines that help us recover from long travels, like stretching or the right nutrition. I think it’s important to keep your body moving and take care of hydration while traveling.
Natasha knows all the tricks for comfortable traveling.
What’s the nicest place you have ever visited?
NH: I would probably say Switzerland followed by Norway. The countryside is very similar to New Zealand. Mountains and green fields just make me feel at home, that’s why I love it.
SW: Also on my rating Switzerland is very very high. We were training down by Lucerne in 2009 and it was absolutely amazing and I have great memories of training in Switzerland.
What will you be doing in 10 years from now?
SW: Ohh, in 10 years I’ll be 35, that’s old (laughing)! I guess by then I will have retired from cycling. I hope to be a family man, to have a nice job and to enjoy life after sports.
NH: I definitely would have hang up the bike and gone back to my job as an air traffic controller. I don’t know where in the world I will be living but I hope to have started a family by then and just enjoying life.