Athletics: Willis to contest 800m at Beijing

New Zealand medal hope Nick Willis will contest the 800m as well as his favoured 1500m at the Beijing Olympic Games.

Willis has added the shorter event to his programme primarily to stay in sharp condition for the 1500m distance in which he won gold at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

Two of his three remaining lead-up races will also be over 800m, a tactic he believes will have him ready for what he expects will be a mad two-lap dash to decide the 1500m final medals at Beijing.

"Even if I was just running the 1500m, running these shorter races helps simulate a lot of what will happen in a championship-style race in Beijing," Willis told Radio Sport.

"The 1500m Grand Prix races in Europe are always really fast, you just get on the train so to speak and hang on for a fast time.

"But in Beijing it will be slow and tactical for the first two laps, with a big sprint at the end.

"Running 800m races prepares me for that."

Willis predicted a time of about three minutes 34 seconds would be enough to qualify for the final and, probably, to then win what would be the biggest race of his life on August 19.

He hasn't raced for seven weeks since running a personal best 3min 50.66sec over the mile in Oregon.

He was to leave for tomorrow for 2-1/2 weeks more training in Europe which will also incorporate three races.

During 10 days based in a college dormitory on the outskirts of London, he will contest an 800m race there before lining up in a high-powered 1500m Super Grand Prix event at Monaco on July 29.

That race will feature most of the faces Willis expects to duel with at Beijing.

His final leadup race is an 800m event in Helsinki on August 3 - where he hopes to run below 1min 45sec for the first time - before joining his New Zealand teammates in Hong Kong.

"These final few races will sharpen me up and get me in the right mindset heading into Beijing," he said.

"Hopefully all the momentum will be perfectly timed so I hit a peak on August 19th."

He hoped his major rivals were spending this northern hemisphere summer "chasing dollars" on the European circuit, potentially compromising their Olympic campaign.

"They've been racing there for the last six weeks. I hope I'll be coming into my best peak at Beijing and some of the others won't time it so well."

- NZPA

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