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Athletics: Parents reflect as Gill gets his shot

A basement gym in need of repairs and broken Buick victims of path to Olympics.

There were ice creams for personal bests, repairs to the converted basement gym, and a dumbbell smashing into the family's 1956 Buick convertible.

The memories flooded back for the Gills yesterday as parents Walter and Nerida saw 21-year-old son Jacko named to attend his first Olympics as part of New Zealand's 10-strong track and field team.

Such moments have been replicated across the country in recent weeks. Families gather to celebrate the elevation of a son or daughter (and possibly both) into the Rio ranks.

The Gill path is no different.

Jacko's capacity to achieve athletic feats has never been in question, as his frame of 1.92m and 118kg attests.

By the time he was eight, he could throw a cricket ball 56m. By 10, he'd kicked a soccer ball 70m to score a goal in an age-group competition.

By 11, he launched a "shot put marathon" when he completed almost 500 throws and had Walter nip out for some band aids midway through because he'd skinned the tips of his fingers. A gym was built in the basement of the family's North Shore home, a move which paid dividends over the years, albeit with the odd sacrifice.

"We're still behind on repairs," Walter quipped. "The shot might have hit the odd light, and we don't park cars in there after a dumbbell found its way through the windscreen of the 1956 Buick convertible and rolled down the bonnet to do maximum damage.

"But you look back and think 'it's worth it'. It was a special moment hearing his name read out. We've all worked hard towards that, but his enthusiasm has always made it much easier. It'd just be lovely for him to make the final."

Gill has been a world record and world title holder through the age group ranks, but reaching the top of the senior men's field is proving difficult, especially now he duels with the world indoor champion, fellow Kiwi Tom Walsh, at home.

Gill's personal best with the 7.26kg senior shot is 20.83m. The biggest indoor or outdoor throw this year is Walsh's 21.78m on the way to his maiden world title. There's room to improve.

"I'm mainly working on technique ahead of Rio," Gill said. "My lifting is going well but I made the mistake last year of not concentrating enough on speed."

Gill prides himself on explosive lifts in training so he moves weight fast and isn't left with dead muscle. That means flinging medicine balls around or hammering a sledgehammer into tyres.

He also faces hot pre-Olympic competition ... on the Scoville scale.

"I've been working my way up to eat the hottest chilli. Like my Rio preparations, it's getting harder week by week. I've gone through the jalapeno and I'm up to the habanero, which offers a fair amount of burn."

Before Rio he'll face the ultimate challenge.

"I'm dedicated to the goal of sampling the Carolina reaper, the world's hottest."

After opting out of the London Games, Gill will join Walsh, pole vaulter Eliza McCartney and runners Nikki Hamblin, Angie Petty and Zane Robertson in making Olympic debuts.

Shot putter Val Adams, runner Nick Willis and javelin thrower Stu Farquhar will attend their fourth Games and walker Quentin Rew heads to his second.

- NZ Herald

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