Athletics: Sprint sensation eyes Oz bid

By Kelly Exelby


Joseph Millar is New Zealand's fastest man, although the Tauranga sprinter will have to move even quicker if he is to gather up enough to cash to get himself across the Tasman to take on Aussie's best.

Millar, 20, won a sensational sprint double at the New Zealand track and field championships at Waitakere at the weekend and has now set his sights on exporting his talents to the Australian champs in Melbourne from April 13-15 in a bid to lower his new best time of 10.36s for the 100m.

Millar's 100m into a slight headwind was the fourth fastest ever by a New Zealander as he cruised to victory from Isaac Tatoa (10.55) and three-time defending champion Carl Van Der Speck (10.57).

He went on to collect another three golds, winning the sprint double with a 200m time of 21.74s, as well as the M20 4x100m and 4x400m relay with the Waikato-Bay of Plenty team.

Millar's training partner Kodi Harman (10.56) won the 100m by half-a-second, lowering his PB in the process, but twinged his hamstring in the 4x100m relay, pulling out of his Sunday events which included the 4x400m relay and 200m.

Tauranga's Michael Goldie (22.98) won bronze in the 200m.

Millar is keen for a tilt at Australia's top sprinting talent but will have to pull together sufficient cash in the next two weeks to get there.

"Hopefully, I'll sort some stuff out because the fastest time in Australia this season is 10.35s so I'm fairly confident I can go over there and medal, maybe even pull something spectacular out and win it," he said.

Millar eclipsed coach Todd Blythe's best 100m time of 10.53s set in 1993 as a 17-year-old and was still buzzing yesterday at his weekend exploits, with the double gold particularly satisfying after he fought back from a potentially career-ending spine injury last year, ignoring Athletics NZ's high performance treatment plan and working with Dr Pat Wigley at Tauranga's CNS (physio and chiropractic) Clinic.

Wigley was in Auckland to watch his athlete and Millar reckons he may have detected the hint of a tear after the 100m final.

"I've never seen him so excited. Pat tells me and Kodi he prefers to celebrate the small successes in training rather than wins but I'm pretty sure he's changed his mind."

Everything clicked for Millar in his first senior men's 100m national final. Tatoa is a renowned fast starter, leading Millar through the opening 70-80m almost without fail in their previous races, but Millar had his number at Waitakere and hit the front after 60m before the boosters went on.

The 200m was more of a battle, with rain and a strong head wind, and at times Millar said it felt as though he wasn't moving at all. While bagging the double was personally satisfying, it also silenced a few doubters at Athletics NZ who'd been trying to encourage the former Aquinas College student to ditch the sprints and become a 400m specialist.

"There was a thought that maybe I should even move into the 800m if I was really serious about sticking around in athletics because I'd never do anything special in 100m - and that came from the top of the high performance unit. But I ignored all that and stuck to my guns and at the moment I don't want to be a 400m runner."

Although he's still a way off the Olympic qualifying mark of 10.21, his 100m time was just outside the world champs qualifying mark but inside the cutoff for the next Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Tauranga Olympic prospect Brent Newdick won three gold medals in quick succession at Waitakere, showing he's more than capable of going head-to-head with the nation's best in his favoured individual events.

After easily retaining his 110m hurdles crown, Newdick, 26, had to share honours after a lengthy jump-off with junior Nicholas Southgate in the pole vault and snuck through to claim the long jump title by 1cm (7.17m) in terrible conditions on his final attempt.

Add a 44.17m fifth placing in the discus and a useful 49.59s 400m heat the previous night, and the Commonwealth Games silver medallist can feel well pleased with his weekend efforts, despite dashing from one end of the stadium to the other to juggle disciplines.

Newdick, entered for the shot and javelin on Sunday, has already qualified for the London Olympics with 8114 points at Gotzis, Austria, last May and believes he is well on track to better that this year.

And Tauranga Ramblers were celebrating further success when veteran walker Scott Nelson, 15 years after capturing his fifth national 20km walk title, won another, outstriding his opposition over a 1km road course.

Nelson, 42, is based in Geelong and won in a time 15 minutes slower than his meet record, set in 1995. But the competitive fire that, at his peak, carried him to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics had returned.

"I came back to the sport for a couple of reasons," he said. "My kids have got old enough that I can go training again and I needed to get fit for my own health, because I had got very fat and very unhealthy." His performances, gold medals over 20km and 3000m on the track, have convinced him he still has what it takes to compete internationally.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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