Thu, Dec 31, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Danish cyclist switches allegiance to New Zealand


Cyclist Linda Villumsen, who won the time-trial bronze medal for her native Denmark at this year’s world road racing championships, said yesterday she had switched allegiance to New Zealand.

The 24-year-old, who became a New Zealand citizen earlier this week, said her first target for her adopted country was to win selection to race at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in October.

Villumsen first visited New Zealand as a 17-year-old to attend school in Auckland and has returned regularly ever since.

Earlier this year she signaled her intention to change countries — telling the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet that “New Zealand has been part of me for many years” — and said she had received a lot of support since then.

“I feel that this support is giving me so much more than I have had before,” said Villumsen, who finished fifth in the women’s road race at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

However, her decision has not gone down well in Denmark, where a former national coach told her it would prove to be the most embarrassing thing she had ever done, Villumsen said.

“It is in the back of my head and it doesn’t go away because he was serious. I don’t feel that way. I feel only that I am proud of this,” she said.

New Zealand cycling high-performance director Mark Elliott described Villumsen as one of the world’s best riders and said her presence was a major boost for New Zealand’s road cycling program.

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