Prodigy blitzes the field

By Jared Smith

Winning 12 straight races and dominating the competition meant Upper Hutt speed skater Ollie Jones's biggest opponent was the stopwatch yesterday.

The 16-year-old prodigy was the star of the New Zealand Flat Track Nationals at Jubilee Stadium over the weekend highlighted by another record- shattering effort in the 10,000m Men's (12 and over) feature race.

Jones again eclipsed the field on Monday, lapping all and sundry at least once, before powering on to claim the New Zealand record.

His 17 minute, 57.383 second time bettered the old 2007 mark by two-time world champion Peter Michael by nearly eight seconds.

As speed skaters crouch for the entirety of their race, the young Valley Inline club member slumped in his chair with straightened legs at the race's conclusion to shake out the lactic acid buildup in his muscles.

"I can't move my left leg at all," he grinned and yet grimaced.

"It's massive you've got so much force going around the corners it just smashes you so quickly."

Jones said his plan to power away early and hope for the opening worked the chasing bunch of clubmate Antony Nalder, Kapiti's Josh Whyte and Manawatu's Brayden Judd were the only ones who had a chance of staying with him as the younger racers dropped out.

There was also the matter of avoiding disaster, as another favourite in Manawatu's Kierryn Hughes pulled out after a crash with Valley Inline's Dale Christoffersen.

Jones powered on and soon was just racing the stopwatch as he approached the other bunched chasers.

This posed a big challenge when hunting down Michael's time as the rules state a lapping racer must either race in front or behind a lapped group.

Jones had to constantly move through and around the group who in their hunt for silver did not want to be lapped twice.

"It becomes pretty complicated out there," he said.

"About 1500m to go I was completely destroyed, I didn't think I had enough left [for the record].

"I just closed my eyes and went for it."

He need not have worried his final burst clear had Jones well over the old mark, with Nalder coming through for second followed by Judd.

For Jones, who attended the world championships in 2011 in South Korea and last year in Italy, the records help alleviate a frustrating period.

Determined to eventually join the ranks of Kiwi world champions, his results at both world events were similar despite increased practice.

Training only on an 800m road track with his father, Jones was delighted the extra effort is now yielding results indoors his overall New Zealand records in both the 10,000m and the earlier 3000m final exceeding his goals to just set national records in his Intermediate division.

Jones will now look to the 2013 world championships in Belgium in late August. In the women's glamour event yesterday the Combined Ladies 3000m Wanganui's Jessica van Bentum put up a great showing and was on the cusp of victory before Valley Inline's Stephanie Challis came up to pip her on the line in a thrilling finish.

Van Bentum had already collected a gold that morning, winning the 800m for the Intermediate Ladies division.

In other local results, Caitlin Ferguson won the Primary Girls 200m, Gary Clark collected third in the Masters 500m, Melissa White was second in the Senior Ladies 800m and Renee Teers came third in the Juvenile Girls 1500m.

Chase Morpeth won the Primary Boys 200m, although again only against one opponent.

The nationals concluded with the final relay races yesterday afternoon.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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