Athletics: Willis to tour NZ

Olympic 1500m bronze medallist Nick Willis will begin a homecoming tour of New Zealand on October 8, his management team said today.

Willis's third placing in Beijing last month represented New Zealand's first Olympic medal on the track since John Walker in 1976.

He now plans stops in up to nine cities over three weeks, visiting schools and running clubs to share his Olympic medal with young people.

"I can't wait to say `thank you' to everyone in my country for their support, going back to my own youth," United States-based Willis of the upcoming tour.

"But just as important, when young people see the medal and hear about my journey I hope they will be inspired - perhaps to pursue athletics, but certainly to dedicate themselves to being successful at whatever they choose to do in their lives.

"If a kid from Lower Hutt can win an Olympic medal and can succeed, so can they."

After arriving in Auckland on October 8, Willis and his wife, Sierra, will head to Dunedin to begin their driving tour of the country.

Among the cities in which stops are planned are Christchurch, Nelson, Hastings, Tauranga, Hamilton, Wellington and Willis' hometown of Lower Hutt.

Willis, the 2006 Commonwealth Games 1500m champion, has just completed a successful season in north America and Europe.

He never finished out of the top three over 1500m or the mile, and capped his year with victory in the Fifth Avenue Mile in New York on September 21.

- NZPA


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