Ten New Zealand athletes have been named in the initial selection for the Athletics team for the Rio Olympic Games, announced today at the AUT Millennium track by the New Zealand Olympic Committee.
The team includes a strong mix of experience and young talent with three athletes, shot putter Valerie Adams, 1500m specialist Nick Willis and javelin thrower Stuart Farquhar all preparing for their fourth Games campaign, while six of the athletes will be attending their first Olympic Games.
Willis won silver in Beijing 2008 and was appointed flag bearer for London 2012 and, at 32, he shows no signs of slowing down. Last year he set a New Zealand record for 1500m and finished sixth in the event at the World Championships. Already in 2016 Willis has set a new New Zealand indoor mile record and claimed bronze in the 1500m at the World Indoor Championships in Portland, USA.
Adams' gold medal winning form from her previous two Olympic Games campaigns will provide plenty of encouragement for her heading to Rio, as well as providing inspiration for the wider New Zealand team. Adam's was appointed flag bearer at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.
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Newly crowned world indoor shot put champion Tom Wash has forced himself into medal contention for Rio, with a commanding victory in Portland last month. Over the past 12 months, Walsh has beaten all the potential medallists at least once and has been one of the most consistent athletes in his field, arming him with confidence ahead of his first Olympic Games.
The youngest athlete named in the team today is pole vaulter Eliza McCartney who, at 19, has gone from strength to strength in recent years. McCartney set a world junior record late in 2015 and with more improvements since then, has shot up the world rankings. She now sits fifth in the world, the same place she occupied at the indoor championships earlier this year.
Six of the ten athletes announced have won Commonwealth medals and three have World University medals to their name.
There is still potential for the team to be expanded with more than ten athletes having realistic chances of reaching nomination standards. Most of these athletes are either based overseas or will travel to the USA or Europe for further competition in coming months.
A further selection announcement will take place in July.
New Zealand has won ten gold and a total of 21 medals in athletics at the Olympic Games since race walker Harry Kerr came home with bronze from the 1908 London Olympic Games.
In more recent times, it is hard to forget Peter Snell's three Olympic golds in the 800m and 1500m at the 1960 Rome and 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.
New Zealand Olympic Athletics team:
Valerie Adams - Shot Put - Pakuranga Athletic Club
Stuart Farquhar -Javelin -Hamilton City Hawks
Jacko Gill - Shot Put - Takapuna Athletic Club
Nikki Hamblin - 1500m - Cambridge Athletic Club
Eliza McCartney - Pole Vault - North Harbour Bays
Angie Petty - 800m - University of Canterbury
Quentin Rew - 50km Walk - Wellington Harrier Athletic
Zane Robertson - 10,000m - Hamilton City Hawks
Tom Walsh - Shot Put - South Canterbury Athletic Club
Nick Willis - 1500m - Lower Hutt Athletic Club