New Zealand hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe has set a stunning Oceania record on the way to claiming automatic qualification for the Tokyo Olympics.
Ratcliffe overcame another impressive performance from fierce rival Lauren Bruce to take out her sixth national title and reaffirm her position as Aotearoa's best in the sport.
Ratcliffe set the standard from round one, adding more than a metre on to her lifetime best to power the hammer out to 73.40m and comfortably beyond the Tokyo automatic standard of 72.50m.
Yet the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist was not finished and in round four added a further 15cm on to that mark with a 73.55m effort – 8cm in excess of the Oceania record mark set by Bruce in September 2020. That throw would have earned her a silver medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004, though the sport has come a long way in the following 17 years.
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Bruce also bettered the Olympic qualification mark with a throw of 72.76m to take out the silver medal and continue her steady form this summer.
Ratcliffe was understandably pleased with her performance and said: "It feels so good to get the Olympic qualification mark off the plate and I can finally focus on building up for Tokyo.
"It was just awesome. It was like the culmination of 16 years of training with Dave (coach and father) in the crowd. In the last week or so training has been up and down, so to keep it all together was the big challenge. It was more than I could have hoped."
Two months ago in her last outing in Hastings, Ratcliffe committed three no throws so for the 27-year-old thrower to launch such a long throw in round one was a surprise given her cautious strategy.
"Because of how it went last time (in Hastings), I went in with the attitude that the first throw was my safety throw, so I focused on just getting it between the little white lines. That was my relaxed one, obviously relaxed worked for me!
"I was still in shock a bit after the first throw, but it was, yes, just keep on doing what you are doing."