Joseph Millar made a welcome return to the track on Saturday after nearly a year on the sidelines with a chronic herniated disc.
The three-time New Zealand title-holder in the 100m and 200m, and owner of the second-fastest all-time residents 100m time of 10.32 sec, had two convincing sprint victories at the opening meeting of the season, held at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium.
The 23-year-old, from Papamoa, won the 100m in a wind-assisted time of 10.56, which is a long way off the qualifying time of 10.16 for next year's Rio Olympics.
"I was hoping for a little bit quicker but obviously it's going to take me a couple of races to get my head around things and be able to really do what I'm capable of," Millar said. "Then hopefully (I'll) be able to add a bit of speed and stuff on to that and by the proper races in the season, I'll be able to really take a good crack at the Rio qualifications and other times I'm after.
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"The end of November last year is when I last ran injury-free before now. I really had to think about what I wanted and the risks I would take by trying to take nationals out. So I decided not to compete but that was easier said than done, as it almost killed me to watch the race without being in there."
Millar's misfortune meant his training partner from Papamoa, Kodi Harman, took the opportunity to grab the 100m title in March.
"If anyone had to win I am glad it was him," Millar said. "He is very fast. At times I think the timing of us two both getting better every year, and me being slightly faster than him, means that he might not quite get the recognition for how fast he is.
"So for him to win nationals will be a really good boost for him and could help that confidence in getting faster and open a few doors for him. If it helps him, then it helps me, because it means he will be chasing me to beat me now. Nothing like the fear of someone trying to get you to make you run faster."
Millar is based at AUT Millennium high performance centre on Auckland's North Shore with a new coach Paul Gamble.
"Rio, I think, is on. I never felt more on a better path than now ... it is the first time that I've had this level of trust in my direction and the things my coach has done."