Willis canters in Capital Classic

By Daniel Richardson

Nick Willis cruised to victory in last night's Capital Classic in Wellington / Stuart Munro
Nick Willis cruised to victory in last night's Capital Classic in Wellington / Stuart Munro

Nick Willis was after a quick race and he found it in the 800m event at the Capital Classic at Newtown Park in Wellington last night.

Willis, who won silver at the Beijing Olympics in the 1500m in 2008, rarely runs over 800m but as he builds towards March's World Indoor Championships in Poland he was keen to find an event with speed to help his preparation.

He clocked 3:55.98 over the mile in Wanganui on Monday and covered 800m in 1:50.04 in the capital last night as he comfortably took out the senior men's 800m race.

"I always like to run in my home town when it fits into what I need to do,'' Willis said after the race.

"We've got the world indoor champs coming up in six weeks and traditionally it's quite a tactical race with the last 600 metres being really fast. Doing an 800m is a bit of a shock to the system to remember how to sprint again.''

Around 1000 people were on hand to watch Willis run, which was a far cry from a packed stadium at the Olympics.

But as a show of good faith, Willis later ran as a pacemaker for part of the men's 3000m before dropping out after 2km.

Brad Mathas pushed Willis during last night's 800m race but the New Zealand 1500m record holder showed an impressive turn of speed through the last 100 metres to run him down as Caversham's Ben Anderson finished third in 1:53.46.

"I knew my strength was there,'' Willis said. "It was more a matter of if I went out too hard, I just haven't done the training to handle that early pace. My coach wanted me to run negative splits, which means the second lap's faster than the first and we were probably pretty spot on to doing that so it worked out.''

Another striking aspect to Willis was seeing him step out in adidas gear after he ended his eight-year association with Reebok following the London Olympics in 2012.

Willis' new deal with adidas, which came to fruition in the past few months, was significant as he said it would likely see him looked after until the end of his career and will allow him to prepare adequately for the Rio Olympics in 2016.

"Primarily the support is financial which enables me to keep going. I'm in my 30s now so there'd be pressure to have to start handing in my resume to get jobs to support my family,'' he said.

"But thankfully adidas has come along to say no we really think that you've got a shot at getting on the podium again in Rio and we are going to do everything we can to help you get there so that means a lot.''

July's Commonwealth Games are also looming on the horizon for Willis but he said they weren't in his thoughts yet.

"I try not to look too far ahead. It's just nice that there's the world indoors to sort of take my mind off of Glasgow till around April comes and it all fits in with my plan anyway and it'd mean a lot to get on the podium at a world level again.''

In other notable events, the New Zealand 4x100m men's and women's relay teams took the chance to have a gallop as they look towards qualifying for Glasgow later this year.

Hamilton's Camille Buscomb set a meeting record in the women's 3000m with a time of 9:08.70, while Scott Thomson broke the men's triple jump mark with an effort of 14.88m beating Scott Clements' 2005 leap of 14.87m.

- APNZ

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