Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Athletics: Sprinter in last dash for Rio

Kiwi sponsored to train with top British athletes in bid to qualify for Games
Joseph Millar believes getting away from NZ distractions will give him the best chance of qualifying. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Joseph Millar believes getting away from NZ distractions will give him the best chance of qualifying. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Tauranga sprinter Joseph Millar is launching a last-ditch Olympic qualifying effort in Europe after receiving private funding to assist his bid.

Millar, 23, who has held the title of New Zealand's fastest man since 2012, will be based in Lee Valley, London, for the next six weeks. There he will be training with some of Britain's top athletes, and competing in meets most weekends to give himself every chance to post the qualifying standard for Rio before the July 10 cut-off.

Millar came close to the IAAF "A" qualifying times - which Kiwi athletes need to meet to gain nomination - in the 100m and 200m over the summer. His season personal best of 20.77 in the 200m is .17 off the "A" standard, while he is .13 outside the magic mark of 10.20 in the 100m.

He said his bid to qualify in New Zealand wasn't helped by a series of disruptions in competition, with officials inexplicably rescheduling races, while in one Auckland meet he was thrown out of a race for not wearing the right singlet.

Millar, who has trained under Paul Gamble at AUT Millennium for the past 10 months, left his club singlet in Tauranga and officials would not allow him to race without it.

"I guess they were just looking for excuses to make it difficult, I'm not sure why, I guess it was an ego-trip kind of thing," Millar said.

He believes getting away from the "noise" and potential distractions in New Zealand will give him the best chance of qualifying.

Millar's mission is being funded by the Bobby Stafford-Bush Foundation, a charitable trust set up in 2013 to support young people and community groups who have a goal which may be unobtainable without financial assistance.

"If I didn't get this grant I would have tried to gather up some money to pop over to Australia and give it a go, but this is a much better opportunity and will give me the best possible chance of qualifying."

While Millar will be throwing everything at qualifying for Rio, he doesn't believe the trip will be a failure if he doesn't make the grade for this year's Games. "Even if I don't qualify, the things that I should pick up just from training around athletes of that calibre will make me a better athlete in the future," he said.

"The guys there are all really fast, some of them can run 100m in under 10 seconds, so to be able to train with those guys and see what they do and how they do it should be really good for getting me to the next level."

Millar leaves for the London tomorrow, and will compete in Britain, Belgium and Switzerland.

- NZ Herald

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