Michael Cochrane is confident he will still qualify for the Rio Olympics in one of the most physically demanding track and field event of all - the 400m hurdles. The 24 year-old former Bethlehem College student talks to PETER WHITE from Europe about the ups and downs of his career so far and why the 400m hurdles is arguably the most intense physical event of all.

How close are you to qualifying for Rio?

The way the qualifying system works is by standards. In order for me to be 100 per cent secured a spot in Rio I need to run the standard of 49.40 seconds. My current time and NZ record is 49.58s. In the 400m hurdles that is nothing. So I am very close to getting the standard.

However there is another way in. The IAAF wants 40 people in the 400m hurdles so if I am ranked in the top 40 in the world on July 11 then I also get to go, even if I don't have the standard.

Last year you competed in Beijing at the Olympic venue. How good was that?
It was an absolute high competing in the Birds Nest in Beijing at the 2015 IAAF World Championships against the best athletes in the world and in front of an unbelievably big crowd. This was where I ran my New Zealand record.


A successful European tour last year was also a high. It isn't easy competing at your best in such an unfamiliar environment with so many new variables but I managed to run fast, win races and have a great build-up for the worlds. There haven't been too many lows as of yet, funding has been difficult to come by which is a slight setback. But in terms of training and competing, it has all been on the up.

What has been the major stumbling block in your way for reaching Rio?
Definitely the funding. I have to work (as a teacher) on top of training in order to get by. Which is fine when I'm at home, but when I go away to race I obviously can't work, meaning my trips are shorter, giving me fewer chances to qualify etc.

I have always needed funding to keep my athletics career alive and this has always come from Athletics New Zealand, Sport BOP, Adastra foundation and the IOC Olympic Solidarity Scholarship. I have been hugely grateful for the support. I still receive the IOC scholarship which is a life-saver.

However I am now too old to receive the Sport BOP and Adastra scholarships, and funding at Athletics NZ has had some cuts, making my athletics career that much harder to continue. So it looks like I need to start running very fast in order to increase my Athletics NZ funding.

Another stumbling block is finding the competition needed to run fast. It is very hard to run a world-class time when there's no adrenaline rush of having someone beside or in front of you, which was the case during this summer season. I won my races on the Australian tour, but wasn't getting challenged.

Also finding races with good weather can be tricky. Wind is my worst enemy. Hurdlers do a certain number of strides between hurdles and wind often disrupts this, making you stretch or chop your stride which adds time. Oceania and Europe (the two places I race most) are quite windy places. So this is often a challenge.

Why did you make the move to Perth over the summer?
The major reason behind moving to Perth was to train under my new coach Lyn Foreman, an ex-Australian 400m hurdler who made a world champs final and won silver at the Commonwealths. She has consistently coached many athletes to the Olympics which was why I wanted to be trained by her. Also my wife is studying to be a vet in Perth, something she couldn't do in Tauranga or Auckland.

Is it true 400m hurdlers vomit after every race?
Yes a lot of 400m/400mh athletes will vomit after races as it is such a long time to be sprinting 100 per cent for. Once you finish if you haven't passed out you will likely be vomiting. I don't understand the physiology behind it, but I really hate vomiting relentlessly while trying to catch my breath, while every muscle in my body screams from an overdose of lactic acid.

Finishing races are truly the worst experiences I have had. I have even had to spend a night in hospital in cardiac care after pushing it too hard before. But once the pain has passed after an hour or so, you feel great and look forward to the next one. If that sounds bad, the training is even harder than the races, ha ha.