Athletics New Zealand have admitted that teenage Kiwi sprint sensation Edward Osei-Nketia could be lost to Australia, but they're preparing for a mighty battle to keep his services.
The 17-year-old Osei-Nketia, son of New Zealand record holder Gus Nketia, hit the headlines this weekend by winning the Australian senior 100m title in Sydney.
He is now believed to be the world's second-fastest current junior (under-20), with his Sydney semifinal time of 10.19s behind only 18-year-old Jamaican Oblique Seville's 10.13s.
Osei-Nketia, who has attended Scots College in Wellington on a scholarship this year, spent the eight previous years in Australia, where he first started sprinting. Following his amazing victory at Sydney's Olympic Park, the big flyer revealed Aussie officials have approached him about running in the green and gold.
And, Athletics NZ High Performance manager Scott Goodman has acknowledged that while New Zealand are desperate to keep the future star, Australia does loom as an attractive option for Osei-Nketia.
"He's eligible to apply for an Australian passport and if he did that I suppose the Australians would be keen to have him. He would be fantastic in their relay programme. We don't have the depth to offer a relay programme," Goodman told Jason Pine on Radio Sport.
"They [Osei-Nketia and his dad] see that as a good backup, and it is attractive to them. They want him to have the opportunity to be an individual 100, 200 metre runner and having the relay as a backup."
Despite that lure, Goodman says that Athletics NZ will try and pull out all the stops to keep the teenage champion in the black singlet – and says there should soon be a resolution to the eligibility issue.
"We pretty much consider him...as our guy, that we can select for New Zealand teams. We've selected him for Oceania Championships in the end of June.
"Under the IAAF rules which are getting stricter about change of allegiance...if he competed for us at Oceania he wouldn't be available to compete for another country. He could make a reapplication to change allegiance once he turns 20."
To lock Osei-Nketia in as a New Zealand athlete would be incredibly exciting for Athletics NZ, with Goodman describing him as a real prospect for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and obviously beyond.
"His potential is extraordinary. For his age, he's the second fastest in the world at the moment. He's still very raw. We think he can be sub 10.10s, possibly sub-10 seconds over the next few years. That means you're capable of making the final at something like the Olympics or the world championships. He could be an absolute superstar.
"I've learned over time you've just got to be patient in how things unfold. There are some technical things, like his start, that he's still working on and that will take a couple of years to really master. I think he's going to be very good over 200 [metres] - his top-end speed is quite amazing."