By Greg Stutchbury
WELLINGTON, March 31 (Reuters) - Athletics New Zealand's high performance director Scott Goodman is looking forward to the Commonwealth Games but admits his focus has already shifted to next year's world championships and the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The Commonwealth Games are eagerly anticipated in New Zealand as it gives athletes a taste of multi-sport events before an Olympics and the opportunity to compete at an international level.
Goodman, however, was mindful that standards in some events at the July 23-Aug. 4 Glasgow gathering will not be the highest and the focus should remain on apex competitions being held in Beijing next year and Rio in 2016.
"Commonwealth Games are still high priority for our country but in some (athletics) events the competition is not that great and it falls away quite dramatically," Goodman told Reuters at the national athletics championships at the weekend.
"With the Kenyans in the distance races and the Jamaicans and (competitors from) Trinidad and Tobago in the sprint events, they're world class but in other events it does fall off.
"So the actual major championships for us are still world championships and Olympics."
Athletics New Zealand's funding from High Performance Sport New Zealand of about NZ$2 million ($1.73 million) a year is also targeted towards Rio, where they have been tasked of achieving at least two medals and six top-eight finishes in 2016.
Goodman added that athletes should be wary of the fact that good performances in "two or three" of the 44 events in Glasgow might not translate to similar results in Rio.
"In terms of developing their profile it will help, but they also have to be careful," Goodman said.
"It could be possible for one or two of them to medal (in Glasgow) and not be on track for Rio selection.
"But generally, if our athletes finish in the top six they should be on track for top-16 in Rio and that's what our board has set for selection."
New Zealand's athletics successes in recent years have typically rested on the broad shoulders of women's Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams.
Goodman, however, is confident her male counterparts Tom Walsh and Jacko Gill should be in contention by Rio as the pair ramp up their own rivalry, while he was also enthusiastic about a small group of female middle distance runners emerging.
Walsh won bronze at the world indoor championships in Poland in early March, while the 19-year-old Gill is the world junior record holder.
The 22-year-old Walsh won the national title while Gill, competing in his first senior competition, finished second with a put that surpassed a qualifying standard for the Commonwealth Games.
"You want the rivalry to be there. They will go out and compete and I can see over the next five or six years it could be great for our sport to have that kind of rivalry," Goodman added.
"We could easily have two guys in the top six in the world by Rio... and right now, with Tom and Jacko coming through that's a strong case of us getting a second medal with Valerie."
($1 = NZ$1.1555) (Editing by John O'Brien)