Athletics: Heptathletes battle for selection

By David Leggat

A fascinating tete-a-tete lies ahead for Olympic Games heptathlete contenders Sarah Cowley and Rebecca Wardell.

Wardell, long rated New Zealand's leading multi-event athlete, is back in training after a lengthy injury layoff for a stress fracture in her left leg.

However, a dose of spice has been added to the mix with the performance of Cowley at the world combined events meeting in Gotzis, Austria last weekend.

Rotorua athlete Cowley, now based in Auckland, scored a personal best 6135 points over the seven-discipline event, exceeding the 6050 points set by Athletics New Zealand and the New Zealand Olympic Committee as the requirement for Games selection.

Cowley, 28, finished 18th, jumping a personal best 1.85m - and followed that with leaps of 1.88m and 1.91m, 1cm short of Tania Murray's national record, thus making her the third New Zealand woman to clear more than 1.90m.

Cowley added personal bests in the shot put (13.22m), javelin (40.66m) and the closing event, the 800m. In that, needing to run 2min 21s, Cowley turned in a 2:15.37.

British Olympic hope Jessica Ennis won with a personal best 6906 points.

Cowley's total is a 177-point improvement on her previous best and moves her into second on the New Zealand all time list behind Joanne Henry's 6278 and ahead of Wardell's 6108. However 34-year-old Cantabrian Wardell, who was 22nd at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and contested both 2006 and 2010 Commonwealth Games, remains in the frame.

She is due to contest a high profile event in Ratingen, Germany on June 14-15, with the French combined events championship in Aubagne on July 7-8 as a backup. Wardell achieved her PB at Ratingen four years ago. If she manages to better 6050 in Germany, or France, it will be over to Athletics NZ, who can nominate only one athlete for the event to the NZOC.

The A standard is 6150 - just 15 points more than Cowley managed in Austria - and if both women exceeded that mark in the next month New Zealand could send the pair to London.

"It's a fantastic situation," Athletics NZ high performance boss Scott Goodman said yesterday. "By the cut-off date of July 8, if they've both got the B qualifier [5950 points] and are over the Olympic standard, our selectors nominate one of the two."

- NZ Herald

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