Athletics: International stars to compete in NZ this summer

Tom Walsh celebrates winning gold at the IAAF World Indoor Championships. Photo / Getty Images
Tom Walsh celebrates winning gold at the IAAF World Indoor Championships. Photo / Getty Images

Several of New Zealand's stars from Rio 2016 including medallists Tom Walsh, Eliza McCartney and Liam Malone will be in action against top international athletes this February in the Athletics New Zealand International Athletics Series.

The series of three events will give New Zealanders the chance to see world class athletics and to meet and interact with local and international athletics stars.

Two CBD street style events followed by a more conventional track meet will give fans the opportunity to experience the best of athletics up close and personal.

Sunday 19 February - 2017 Mike Greer Homes Big Shot & Fast K, Christchurch CBD

The three-event series will kick off on Sunday 19 February in the Christchurch CBD with The Mike Greer Homes Big Shot and Fast K taking place at the city's Retro Sports Facility on the corner of Kilmore and Durham Streets.

The event, hosted by the Christchurch's International Track Meet Trust will see Kiwi Shot Put stars Tom Walsh and Jacko Gill in action against a world class field of international competitors. The overseas contingent will be headed by Rio gold medallist, American Ryan Crouser. Crouser and Walsh had several great clashes in 2016 with Crouser taking home the spoils in Rio before Walsh bounced back with good late season form to take overall Diamond League honours.

Also in action will be former Indoor World Champion Ryan Whiting, who previously visited New Zealand in 2015, setting new NZ All Comer's Records twice in 48 hours. Rio Olympic finalist Damien Birkinhead of Australia will complete the elite line up in what is likely to be one of the strongest fields for a Shot Put Competition anywhere in the world in 2017.

Top middle distance runners from New Zealand and Australia will be in action in the Fast K 1000m race through the streets of Christchurch to kick off the event. This street 1000m event for men and women will see several Olympic athletes in action as they start building up to the 2017 World Championships in London.

Wednesday 22 February - 2017 Vertical Pursuit - Britomart, Auckland

Eliza McCartney's 2017 season debut will take place in the unique confines of The Atrium, Britomart in Auckland's CBD in the 2017 Vertical Pursuit event. McCartney will face top North American vaulters who should provide a stern challenge to the Rio Bronze medallist. Rising star and new holder of McCartney's former U17 National Record Olivia McTaggart will also be in the mix, in her first taste of elite competition.

The free event indoors at Britomart's Atrium under the Westpac Building will showcase New Zealand's top vaulters, with the top men's competitors expected to be jumping well in excess of five metres. Fans will have the opportunity to get up close to the action and watch the athletes soar.

Sunday 26 February - 2017 Auckland Track Challenge, AUT Millennium, North Shore

The 2017 Auckland Track Challenge event takes place this year at AUT Millennium Stadium on Auckland's North Shore. As a base for High Performance Sport New Zealand, this venue is very familiar to top athletes. Eliza McCartney will be jumping on her home track in front of a partisan North Shore crowd.

This Auckland Track Challenge will feature the second leg of the international Men's Shot Put and Women's Pole Vault events as well as top level sprinting and middle distance running.

The event will be a track meet like no other, with the crowd invited over the barriers to get up close to the action.

A new initiative will be the People's Mile, supported by two-time Olympic 1500m medallist Nick Willis. This event is designed to give everyone the opportunity to experience track running, no matter their speed or experience. Participants will have the opportunity to take to the track prior to the international competition commencing and run a timed mile. Nick Willis will be on hand to lead warm-ups and provide tips for keen participants.

- NZ Herald

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