Teenage Whanganui walker Lucas Martin is turning heads with his style and performances on the track.
The 14-year-old Whanganui Collegiate athlete has chosen an unusual sport for someone so young, but is excelling at the highest level.
At the Jennian Homes New Zealand Track and Field Championships Martin won gold, racing out of his grade in the under-20 division 3000m event, and then backed that up the following day with bronze in the 10,000m race.
Coached from a distance by walking maestro Bart Smith, Martin has been mentored in recent times by his former Whanganui School principal and multiple national champion Christine Tuka.
Legendary athletics coach and Whanganui Collegiate head coach Ale McNab, Smith and Tuka all agree Martin is a natural in the art of race walking, both in technique and mental aptitude.
"Walking is an extremely technical sport, you have to know exactly what your knees are doing, where your feet are and judging pace," Tuka said.
"Lucas has all this and he thinks about his races and even at what level he will compete.
"When I was younger my coach also lived out of town and that's difficult. Lucas has adapted well though and asks questions whenever he can."
Martin elected to compete in the under-20 division because he knew there were guys in the under-18 grade who had quicker personal bests over 3000m than him. Both age groups were lumped together at the nationals over the 3000m trip at the weekend.
Martin had obviously made the right call because although two under-18 walkers finished in front of him, he was the fastest of the under-20s and took gold, eclipsing his personal best in the process by a massive 48 seconds. Martin's PB had been 14m 52s for 3km and he posted 14m 03s in Christchurch.
In the 10km walk on Sunday Martin beat one of the under-18s who had beaten him in the 3km the day before and again posted exceptional times for his first attempt at the distance.
"His splits in the 10km walk were fantastic," Tuka said.
"He clocked 15m 03s for the first 3km, 25.30 for the 5km and finished in 52.22 which are very good times.
"He paced himself very well, but that's Lucas, he is a very tactical walker."
McNab said Kiwi international walkers Quentin Rew and Alana Barber both chatted at length with the young Martin at the nationals and were suitably impressed.
"They both said 'we have a gem of a walker on our hands'."