Smit chasing bonus at Potts Classic

By ANENDRA SINGH sports editor

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Athletics

Proceeds from today's Sylvia Potts Memorial Classic in Hastings will be going towards the Hawke's Bay Cancer Society.

"There's no charge but people can make gold coin donations," says Allan Potts of the annual athletics meeting dedicated to his Olympian wife, who died of cancer on August 31, 1999.

Today's classic, which starts at 5pm at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park, has lured 136 entries, which is a little shy on last year's record 143.

"The fields are a little weak in some areas but Angie Smit's coming back to claim her fourth title," he says of the Cantabrian who has made the women's 800m feature race at 7.25pm her pet project.

The first three place-getters will receive $300, $200 and $100, respectively, but anyone who breaks Sylvia Potts' time of 2min 4.1s will claim a $400 bonus.

Smit clocked 2:6.97 last year but vowed to return this summer.

Although Potts says she hasn't done much this summer, Smit has clocked 2:00.67 in a European meeting and may pick up the bonus if she finds traction here.

Other drawcards include Portia Bing, of Auckland, who finished fifth in the heptathlon event at the Junior World Championship in Barcelona, Spain, last year.

Bing will showcase her skills in the 800m hurdles and long jump.

Fiona Morrison, of Canterbury, is expected to keep Bing honest.

In the big blokes' high-twitch fibre events, Joseph Miller, of Tauranga, will be the favourite after winning the 100m, 200m and 400m races last weekend.

"His time is 10.38 seconds for the 100m race," Potts says, adding Tama Toki, of Auckland, is the other sprinter to watch today.

Among the budding Hawke's Bay champions are the Hastings Athletics Club pair of Shannon Gearey and Georgia Hulls.

"Shannon's one of our top sprinters here but she'll be running in the 400m race," Potts says of Geary who became the New Zealand 400m secondary schools champion.

Hulls is in the women's 100m, fresh from winning three gold medals at the Colgate Games in Inglewood, New Plymouth, early this month.

Sylvia Potts, who husband Allan coached at her prime, was inducted into the "Wall of Fame" at Otago University's School of Physical Education in April 2008 for her contribution to the discipline following her graduation from the school.

She went down in athletics history for a heart-breaking fall just metres short of the tape in the 1500m finals of the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh.

Sprinting to a narrow lead in the home straight, she was in front 2m from the finish when her legs gave way from sheer exhaustion. She fell and lost a certain gold medal.

"The only time we talked about it [the fall] was when the Minties advertisement came on the TV. It wasn't that she was embarrassed or anything but more that she got famous for what she didn't do rather than what she did do," her son, Richard Potts, 41, once revealed.

The Potts couple was awarded the Order of New Zealand for Merit and, in 2005, Allan was named Watties Sporting Volunteer of the Year.

The recognition marked one of the greatest husband-and-wife partnerships in the history of New Zealand athletics.

The proceeds from the sponsors and entry fees of the classic religiously go to the Hawke's Bay Cancer Society.

The Potts' other child is Nicholas, 32, of Hastings.

A 1968 Mexico Olympic Games athlete, Sylvia went on to manage the Kiwi athletics team to the Auckland Games in 1990 when Richard was competing as an 18-year-old in the 5000m event. Allan Potts also coached Richard.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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