Athletics NZ follows the fortunes of five elite New Zealand athletes in the countdown to Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games in a series of regular blogs between now and next July. Following the highs and lows in their journey to Scotland, we bring you the inside story each month of a quintet of athletes hoping to make it to Glasgow. Among the bloggers helping us to understand a little more of the sacrifices and hard work required to perform at an elite level will be decathlete Scott McLaren, middle-distance runner Angie Smit, hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe, shot putter Tom Walsh and sprinter Joseph Millar.
Julia Ratcliffe Hammer
20 August 2014
Our final 'Road to Glasgow' athlete blog is from hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe, one of the youngest in the team and also one of our medallists. In her last blog of the series Julia looks back on her success at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and forward to what lies ahead.
I’m delighted to write in my final Athletics NZ blog that my Glasgow experience could not have gone much better. I managed to cope with the pressure and expectation of the event. I put together a very consistent series of throws to win silver (her best of 69.96m was her second best ever throw) and I also managed to give the Commonwealth No.1 Sultana Frizell a little bit of a scare in the race for gold.
Throughout the competition I was pleased with how I managed to control my nerves and aside from the fact I didn’t throw over 70m (a distance Julia has achieved once before with her national record 70.28m) I met all my goals I’d set out to achieve at Hampden Park.
I was also within striking distance of Sultana up until the final couple of rounds. I was really hoping I could overhaul her, but it wasn’t to be. My father and coach, Dave, was sat next to Sultana’s coach, Derek Evely, during the final and even Derek admitted to my father he had been nervously watching the competition fearing I might win!
I’ve actually got to know Sultana quite well - she’s a great girl, really positive – and we even trained together several times in Glasgow after the final. I guess rivals in very few athletics events apart from maybe the hammer and multi-events would do that. She made a really nice comment after the final about how cool it was that I was emerging in hammer at such a young age. I have a lot of respect for her.
A common question I’ve been asked is how I celebrated my victory, but the truth is all a little disappointing.
After the medal ceremony, attending to the various media requests and undertaking the drug-testing procedure I got back to the village exhausted. I then had a further series of radio and TV interviews to complete which can be a little overwhelming –especially when you are tired and trying very hard not to say anything stupid!
I went to bed in the early hours of the morning shattered before getting up at 6.30am the next day to address the latest round of media requests. I take caffeine during competition to help keep me alert and focused. So as you can imagine with those also swilling around my system, I didn’t get a lot of sleep.
As my final was scheduled early in the athletics programme I had plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the Games and watched a couple of Black Sticks games and also the Silver Ferns.
I was lucky enough to be given a VIP pass for the netball final, but I think I got a little over-excited as to what areas that would allow me access to. Myself and Niniwa Roberts, a member of the NZ Athlete Support team, moved to sit down on an empty row of seats only to be told we couldn’t sit there because that row was reserved for The Royals!
I also, of course, watched plenty of athletics and I really enjoyed watching my good friend Siositina Hakeai compete in the discus (where she finished fourth). Witnessing her compete gave me a real insight into how others must have felt watching me compete in my hammer final.
Winning the silver medal also presented some interesting media opportunities. On The Crowd Goes Wild I was asked to judge a moustache competition between presenter James McOnie, the New Zealand Governor General Jerry Mateparae and Valerie Adams’ coach Jean-Pierre Egger. See more here
Other opportunities have come my way since winning a silver medal and my old primary school- Hukanui in Hamilton have asked to Skype me and talk about my success, which is cool. It is nice to know I could be inspiring others and making a difference.
I’m also very excited for my future in the sport. It has been awesome to work so closely again with dad for the past couple of months and we will work together and tweak a few elements in training in an effort to further improve my throwing.
Yet I am aware bigger challenges await. Next year my main goal will be the World Championships in Beijing followed n 2016 by the Rio Olympics. My first target is to qualify for the world’s. In 2013 the B standard was 69.50m, which is well within my range. However, the A standard was set at 72.00m and I need to be throwing those sort of distances to guarantee safe passage to the final. I’ve also been used to blitzing the field on the US collegiate circuit, so next year with me potentially battling simply to make finals will be a new experience.
Since Glasgow I have enjoyed a belated 21st birthday present with my mum, dad and sister, Sarah on a five-day trip to Paris. Sarah is a committed traveller and organised a picnic day around Paris in which we enjoyed a different course at a different venue. So we had an entree by the river ending with dessert – I chose a chocolate gateau – under the Eiffel Tower.
Reflecting on my success, I think how special it was that my long suffering mum and sister were there to witness it. I haven’t been on a family holiday in years without needing to be close to a hammer circle or for them to have to hang around for a half a day while I trained. So for them share my experience of winning a silver medal and seeing how much fun the sport can be on the biggest stage was really cool.
Thanks for reading my blogs
Scott McLaren Decathlete
14 August 2014
In Scott's final blog from the Glasgow Games, he looks back at his memories from Glasgow, the hard road to get there and not being able to perform to the high standards he set himself. As the oldest athlete in the team Scott also provides some advice for others striving for the top.
As we know athletics is a sport based on performance, where every centimetre and every split second counts. There is no hiding from that. It’s why we have selection standards and it is the means by which we compare ourselves with other athletes around the world.
These standards rise over time with the perceived notion of increased levels of professionalism yet my situation is similar to that of Kiwi athletes from yesteryear - in that I'm working full time and fitting in training around that. I am still and always will be an amateur athlete pushing to keep up with these standards.
But for me these standards don’t compare to my personal opinion about my performances. No one sets the bar higher than I do myself. I expect better and I demand more of myself than anyone sitting behind glass doors in high chairs with little understanding of decathlon or me as an athlete ever will, so that means there is no one more disappointed than I am right now. I achieved everything that was asked of me in terms of attaining the qualifying standard and proof of fitness. I finished every training session set by my coaches in the build-up, no matter how hard it was or how much pain I was in as my goal was to make sure I was not only going to give of my best in Glasgow, but that I would also be physically able. For the past 15 months I haven’t touched an alcoholic drink and every social occasion I was invited to I turned down (including close friends' weddings) in an effort to make sure I put myself in the best position to let my foot recover, but it wasn’t enough, I wasn’t good enough. I left NZ in good shape and had managed everything well. I had advised those who needed to know that the constant pressure and push for a centimetre here or a tenth of a second there was going to create more issues and be detrimental to me at Glasgow and would create more problems than a controlled build up based on medical advice, but to no avail so I kept pushing and a post games scan has shown I was right with not only my heel still not healed but I have also added plantar fascia and Achilles insertion problems to the mix which were what stopped me at the games and not the original heel injury on its own.
Competition day was unreal. Some 40,000 people were packed inside Hampden Park, but I couldn't take it all in because I had to focus on completing one event at a time. Even though I was trying my best to fight through the pain barrier, I managed season bests in the shot put and long jump. I had some local anaesthetic injections in my foot but was unable to wear a high jump shoe (on my take off foot) because of the pain. The medical staff did everything they could to get me through each event but advised me against any further injections at the risk of rupturing my achillies and if I wanted to be able to do my job and walk properly without multiple surgeries I would have to make a choice. I tried to ignore their warnings as I waited for the 400m start and had to brace myself on the fence because I couldn't put weight on my foot.
I walked out and set my blocks up trying to fight it, but for the first time in my life I put something else before my athletics. I knew I couldn’t carry on. My Commonwealth Games was over and I limped off the track trying to keep a clear head as the media questioned me and I made mention of how proud my late mum would have been.
All I could think about was how I had let down my coaches, friends and family – an emotion which isn't going to recede quickly. But the next day I got out of bed and hobbled down to the track to support the other decathletes, because that’s just what multi-eventers do and even now 5 days later when I deal with some negative incorrect media with information from those who are supposed to be there to support us as athletes it does not affect me as my thoughts are about those who I have let down .
Where to for me now? Firstly, I need to get back to work and then I face surgery on my left shoulder in September and I have made a promise to myself that I will not run again unless I'm pain free. If that’s competitive or just to keep fit I don’t know yet because after well over a year of pain my body needs chance to heal.
I can’t thank my coaching staff Elena (Brown) Matt (Dalllow) and Jeremy (McColl) enough and my partner, Anita (Punt). As they along with other Athletics and NZOC New Zealand support staff, friends and family did everything they possibly could to enable me to compete in Glasgow.
If I can offer advice to anyone wanting to compete at a Commonwealth Games or higher in future, I would say just don’t make excuses, the only person who can stop you is yourself.
Thanks for reading my blog.
Angie Smit 800m
13 Aug 2014
Today we hear from 800m runner Angie Smit about her amazing experiences from the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, what's happening for the rest of the northern summer and her wedding in December.
I’m writing my final Athletics NZ blog from a camper van just outside of London, where I’m currently enjoying a well earned break with my family after the high emotions of competing at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
I'm proud of the way I performed at Hampden Park. To finish fifth in the 800m final is a result I'm very satisfied with. Obviously, to have come away with a medal would have been the ultimate prize, but I can't complain with a top five placing – particularly after the way I ran in first round heat where I only squeezed into the semi-final on time.
Lots of people have asked me what happened in my heat and it is hard to put my finger on anything specific. A few days before the Games I enjoyed a great training session, so I knew I was in great form.
I was really nervous, probably more so than for any race in my career, so that might have impacted upon my performance. The race also took place around noon and I tend to prefer racing later in the day while tactically I maybe went out a little fast over the first lap. Yet whatever factors contributed to my performance in the heats I thankfully made amends in the semi-final, where I was much less nervous and ran a tactically smarter race.
I held back over the first lap to ensure I had something left for that final 100m. I finished the race strongly and just before the line I let out a smile of relief as I'd advanced to the final in third.
As for the final itself, I was perhaps a little unlucky to draw lane one. At the break of lanes in the beginning of the back straight I found many of the other girls swept in front of me – which can happen from time to time when drawn on the inside.
Tactically I felt I probably waited a bit too long to make my move and when I did I had to come very wide entering the home straight. I finished strongly for fifth – which bodes well for the future – but it was a little bit of a scruffy race from my point of view.
Nonetheless, having had time to reflect upon my performance, I’m immensely proud to finish fifth in my first Commonwealth final. I’m still aged only 22 and hopefully I will learn from the experience and take the many positives from what was an unforgettable Games.
To compete in a stadium full of 40,000 people with my mum, dad, Maria, my coach, and my fiance, Sam and his parents all in attendance was truly awesome.
The support I received from so many people back home – I had so many messages on Facebook - was overwhelming and it makes me feel very lucky to have that level of backing.
It helped too that the Kiwis performed so well. I was so proud for all of them, but especially for Zane (Robertson). I was fortunate enough to be in the stadium to watch him win his 5000m bronze medal. It was truly inspirational.
I have so many great memories of the Games which include; enjoying dinner with Valerie (Adams), having a couple of lovely conversations with World and Commonwealth 800m champion Eunice Sum and even having my picture taken with the Queen.
Not that I or for that matter several of my New Zealand team-mates were too good at recognising The Queen’s youngest son!
A well dressed guy came into the dining hall one lunch time and asked in which sports and what events we were competing in. He then politely shook our hand and left. He seemed like a nice man and also reasonably important. However, it was only when Maria (Hassan), my coach, and Scott Goodman (Athletics NZ High Performance Director) said it was Prince Edward did we realise just who he was. Zoe Ballantyne, Brooke Cull, Kristie Baillie and I then quickly chased after him to grab a picture. It was a bit embarrassing we didn’t recognise a member of the Royal Family.
The Glasgow Commonwealth Games may have been my primary target for the year, but it does not represent a full-stop to the season. I’m back into full training this week and hope to end my year on a high. I will be racing at the Flame Games in Amsterdam on August 22 and I hope to be invited to one or two other meets ahead of the Continental Cup in mid-September, where I’ll be competing for the Asia-Pacific team.
Whatever happens, though, I don’t think I will ever forget 2014. The Commonwealth Games will hold so many cherished memories for me. I’ll return to New Zealand in October with Sam and with a wedding to look forward to in December it is fair to say 2014 will always be a very special year in my life. I’m so grateful to God for helping my dreams come true.
Thanks for reading my blog
Tom Walsh Shot Put
30 July 2014
In this athlete blog we hear from Tom Walsh, reflecting on the shot put final at Glasgow where he won silver, his strong desire to be at the top of the dais, his amzing journey over the last 12 months and what is coming next.
I’m writing my final Road to Glasgow blog the morning after the night before. A night in which I performed with pride to win a silver medal with 21.19m, but also a night where I fell short of my fierce desire to win Commonwealth gold.
I still feel hugely disappointed not to have claimed top spot on the podium, although the disappointment has lifted slightly when I think I could have thrown a lot worse and come away with nothing.
Reflecting on the final, I threw pretty well and put together a fairly consistent series. I’m really happy to have backed up a 21m throw in qualification (21.23m) with a 21m throw the next day in the final. If I continue to throw like that I know it will put me in the medal mix at major championships.
In the final I did feel that if I put together the perfect throw I could have achieved a distance around the winning mark of 21.61m, but congratulations to O’Dayne Richards, the better man won on the day. He was really happy with the throw he and even admitted to me he didn’t know where it came from.
To be honest after the competition I was buggered. I was so emotionally spent I went into drug testing and I couldn’t read the numbers on bottles. At one point I even forgot my own age! I came back to the Athletes’ Village ate some food and started to feel a little better. Then I went out for a beer with Scotty Martin, the former Australian shot putter and Grant Ward another athletics coach. It wasn’t a big night. I got back to the village at about 1-1.30pm, but I couldn’t sleep because my mind was racing.
I was then up at 6am the next day to attend a media conference.
Lots of people have asked me what life in the village is like and the accommodation and facilities – I’m sharing a room with javelin thrower Stuart Farquhar - are excellent. There’s an option to watch 20 streams of different sports and about 100 or so people were watching the Rugby Sevens final. I also enjoyed watching my flat-mate Mark Spooner finish sixth in the 69kg weightlifting competition.
A lot of time is occupied around the dining hall and lunch can normally take up to an hour as we trash-talk the Aussies or fellow Kiwis or anyone who happens to be sat near us! The range of food on offer is excellent and you can pick up anything from sandwiches, steak, veges, curries etc. Now my competition is done, I’ve not held back on the desserts with ice cream my favourite.
Today I’ll catch up with my father, mother and brother who have been over here in Scotland watching me. I haven’t thought too much of how I’ll fill in time ahead of July 31 when I’ll leave the village to catch with some mates in London until August 3.
It is now vitally important I re-set my focus and after August 3 it is back to the hard grind of training. I’ll definitely be competing in the Asia-Pacific team at the Continental Cup in Morocco in September and I hope I’ve done enough over the last three weeks or so to be invited to a couple of Diamond League events later this season.
I have to remind myself how far I’ve come over the past 12 months. This time last year I missed out on qualification for the World Championships by 0.01 and in many ways that disappointment helped kick-start the great year I’ve enjoyed. In some ways you learn more from your disappointments than your victories and when I sit down in the next few days and fully reflect on my performance here in Glasgow I’ll find some positives, for sure. If someone 12 months ago would have said I’d win a World Indoor bronze and a Commonwealth silver medal in 2014 I’d have said they were mad.
Thanks for reading my blogs
Angie Smit 800m
23 July 2014
Today we hear from 800m runner Angie Smit about the excitement she is feeling about the start of the Games, her final preparations for her races, a fast 400m relay split and what her expectations are.
With the opening ceremony for the 2014 Commonwealth Games now just hours away as you can imagine I’m super excited. It is crazy to think after all those months of hard training the Games are now finally upon us and I’m on the verge of competing in Glasgow.
Since my last blog, I’ve raced three times over 800m, had one very promising outing in a leg of the 4x400m and moved from North Devon – where I was staying with my fiancé Sam and his parents – and on to Cardiff, where I’ve met up with the New Zealand team for our pre-Games camp.
From a racing point of view, I’ve been disappointed that I’ve not been invited to some of the bigger meets. However, I’m realistic. To feature to those Diamond League meets and top Grand Prix’s I probably needed to run faster than 2:01 during the New Zealand season, so that is something I need to be mindful of in future years. Nonetheless, I’ve been pleased with my competitive outings, which shows I’m in good shape.
I ran 2:01.84 to finish second in Cork in Ireland, which wasn’t a bad performance considering I was badly boxed in. I then ran a 2:00.59 in Stretford (Manchester) – which was the third fastest 800m race of my life. I was very satisfied with the run, although at one stage I thought I might have dipped below the 2:00 barrier for the first time in my career.
At 600m one of the race timers shouted out and I went through three-quarter distance in 1:28 or 1:29. I thought to myself if I run a 30-second final 200m I can do it. I was still on track with 100m to go and even with Sam’s urging me on from the sidelines – I’ve never heard him shout so loud – I just missed out.
I then moved on to Cardiff where I really wanted to back up my Stretford performance. Without the aid of a pacemaker, it was always going to be a tough assignment and although I won having lead all the way - the time of 2:02.78 was a little slower than I would have liked.
Nonetheless, I finished the meet on a high. I ran a leg of the women’s 4x400m team for a New Zealand B team in 53.7, which I was very pleased about. My personal best for 400m is 54.39 so the relay leg proves that my speed is in very good order heading into Glasgow.
Bonding with the rest of the team and finalising my preparations for Glasgow in Cardiff has been a great experience. Sam stayed here with Cam (boyfriend of Nikki Hamblin) in another hotel for four or five days and I’ve also managed to sneak in a bit of sightseeing with Sam going on the Cardiff open top bus tour.
I’ve also had the unexpected bonus of meeting up with my uncle Andy – brother of my mum and auntie Sue. The pair of them are coming to Glasgow to watch me along with my parents. However, on part of their trip to Europe they stopped off in Cardiff and I took in a river boat cruise with them here in the Welsh capital.
It has been inspiring to be around the rest of the New Zealand squad and it is great that so many of the squad such as Val (Adams), Tom (Walsh) and Nick (Willis) are in such great form. Seeing Nick’s performance in Monaco the other night - when he clocked a New Zealand 1500m record - was hugely inspirational and to see him arrive the other night as part of the squad gave me a massive lift.
It has also been great to meet up with my coach, Maria (Hassan) after a month apart and to experience the nightly squad dinners which has allowed me the chance to get to know the squad has been fantastic,
I also received the news the other day that the 800m will be run across three rounds – which in some respects is no great surprise. Initially, the plan was to have just heats and a final, but I was expecting with the number of entries in the women’s 800m that to schedule in just heats and final would made qualification very cut-throat. To have three rounds (ie heats, semis and final) also favours me because as I showed at last year’s World University Games I thrive through the rounds at major championships.
I arrived in Glasgow yesterday ahead of the opening ceremony and have a week before my first race. In terms of my personal expectations I am just keen to do the best that I can. I plan to take the competition round by round and hopefully be in that final ready to compete.
To compete at a prestige event such as the Commonwealth Games is a hugely exciting opportunity and a dream come true. I have huge faith in Maria’s training and huge faith in God and now just have to go out there and try and deliver at Hampden Park.
I’m now all set for Thursday’s (NZ time) opening ceremony where I’ll be a hugely proud New Zealander. I’m sure, as I’m walking around the stadium, I’ll reflect on all the races I’ve ran to reach this point and give thanks to Maria, Sam, my parents and my whole support team. I’m sure I’ll have a tear in my eye, but it just goes to show what hard work can do. I’m just an ordinary girl from Rangiora, so if I can do it others can too.
Thanks for reading my blog
Julia Ratcliffe Hammer
22 July 2014
This week we hear from hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe in her last blog before the Games, about the Cardiff pre-camp, her last two successful competitions before the Games, and talks about her expectations for Glasgow. Photo Courtesy: noelvalerophoto.com
We are now on the cusp of the opening ceremony of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and a lot of people have asked me about how I am feeling ahead of such a big competition.
Yet I’m probably going to disappoint many people by saying, honestly, sat here in my hotel room at the pre-Games training camp in Cardiff, it still feels some time away. I know this sounds improbable so close to the Games but I’m trying to stay detached from as much of the pre-Games hype as possible, so it hasn’t sunk in that there is just under a week left until I compete!
Since my last blog, I've had two more competitions, joined the New Zealand team in Cardiff and also celebrated my 21st birthday.
In terms of my two most recent competitions, I'm very satisfied. I threw a decent 67.45m to win in Cardiff at the Welsh International, but I was particularly pleased with the way I acquitted myself to finish eighth with 68.85m in Székesfehérvár in Hungary – with what was my longest ever throw outside of my home circle in Princeton.
I felt I achieved many of my objectives against a world-class field. I was seeded to finish ninth, so to place eighth and earn the right to three more throws was pleasing. It was also a very different to encounter that level of quality athlete (it included two of the world’s top three) than I would typically experience competing in the US.
I also got the chance to chat to Betty Heidler, the German who holds the women’s hammer world record who finished second in the competition. She was so nice and commented on how great I was so young and throwing so far. I also got to quiz her about her training methods and although they are not radically different to mine, my coach (dad, Dave) and I might look to tweak a few things in future on the back of that conversation.
I also got to celebrate a memorable 21st birthday on July 14 and spent a fair chunk of the day travelling across from London – where I had been based with my auntie – to Cardiff to join the New Zealand team at pre-Games camp.
Although it may have been a more sober day than many typical 21st birthdays, I celebrated a day early by going out for dinner the previous night with my parents, my sister and several other family members. Also the fact that I was making my way to Cardiff to join the Commonwealth Game team to collect my New Zealand uniform for Glasgow made it a very special day.
It has been great to meet up with the New Zealand team in Cardiff. I love being around Kiwis and it has reminded me of how much I miss my fellow compatriots when I'm living and training for so much of the time in the USA. My Kiwi accent has definitely been reinforced over the past week or so.
I underwent an unusual initiation ceremony with the other members of the team who are also making their Commonwealth debut for New Zealand. The main instigators of the initiation were two of the more experienced team members and we were forced to eat a full teaspoon of cinnamon.
We were told not to spit it out and all I'm going to say one member of the 4x400m squad was the first to crack!
Sarah Cowley, Louise Jones and I also organised a quiz night and I was in charge of the personal facts round, where each athlete had to come up one unlikely fact about themselves.
Fellow Athletics NZ blogger, Tom Walsh, was a particularly boisterous participator in the quiz, though he became quiet when I asked the question, “Which team member used to eat cobwebs as a child?” That was definitely my favourite fact.
Now, though, my thoughts turn to Glasgow. I'll be arriving in the Athletes' Village on the 24th - the day after the opening ceremony. I decided to opt out of attending because I did not want any distractions ahead of my competition and I was also mindful that I compete early in the track and field programme (hammer qualification is on the opening day of the athletics schedule on July 28 NZ time and the final is the following day) so I have plenty of time to enjoy the other sports and attend the closing ceremony after I’ve competed.
It would be remiss of me not to conclude my final pre-Games blog without commenting on my aims and expectations for Glasgow. I would be satisfied with six good throws and I'll be adopting the same attitude which has stood me in good stead throughout the year; namely after each throw focusing on improving upon one technical aspect for the next throw. I feel this approach has aided my distances, but beyond this I would love to hit 70m again (Julia's personal best of 70.28m was set in April) and I'll definitely, of course, be fighting to win a medal.
Thanks for reading my blog
Scott McLaren Decathlete
17 July 2014
This week Scott writes about the stark reality of his eleven year journey to get to Glasgow.
I’m writing my final pre-Games blog from my hotel room in Cardiff and only a few days away from my last competition in Loughborough, where I’ll be in 110m hurdles and long jump action. Saturday’s competition will be an interesting test as it has been well over a year since I last competed in those two events due to my surgery.
Cardiff has been great pre-camp experience as most of the team are based here. I’ve met some members I didn’t know before including my fellow Athletics NZ blogger Julia Radcliffe.
I have also had regular access to physio and massage, which is something I am not accustomed to back home as I am not a high performance athlete in the HPSNZ system, but more importantly for me it has allowed me to catch up with two of my three coaches, Elena (Vinogradova) and Matt (Dallow) (Jeremy (McColl) my pole vault coach is with the NZ world junior team in the US). Having the pair of them around will have great benefits in terms of my technical support and mental preparation.
I’ve been asked a lot lately how I’m feeling about the Games and what sort of form I’m in. This is difficult to answer as I’m still suffering a lot of pain on a daily basis and I’m coming in to the biggest competition of my life without the competitions and performances behind me, so it’s really hard to analyse.
I only have a number of short, sharp training sessions planned between now and the Games, so I have a lot of freshening up to do, especially after I undertook a 15-hour drive to get here from Switzerland – which had been my training base for the previous five weeks.
I took a small two-hour detour to Germany to pick up a bag of poles (for the pole vault) that had been left there and due to the hassle and weight of carrying the poles it was easier to drive rather than fly. Some seven countries and 15 hours later I arrived in London – where I was picked up by team management and some of the team members – to drive down to camp.
This drive gave me a lot of time to think about what it has taken me to get here. What it means to me and what it means to others for me to compete at a Commonwealth Games. I love track and field but the road to reaching this level has never been easy and it is sometimes not as glamorous as people imagine.
We have a lot of athletes in New Zealand gaining personal bests, breaking records, training extremely hard and feeling that this should earn them the right to full funding sponsorship and that without that level of support it is impossible to achieve your dreams.
Well I hope that my personal story can change their views. It’s not about touring the world for free, receiving free gear and living the so called dream.
The stark reality is, it is about long weeks, hard times and busting your ass without making excuses. For me, it started 11 years ago when I moved up from the South Island to Auckland with a goal to make it in athletics. I took on three jobs and worked seven days a week for ten years to make ends meet. For two years I lived on an airbed eating only spaghetti and bread to survive.
I’m glad to say in more recent times I have eased back. I now only work two jobs, six days a week and at the age of 32 (yes, I know I don’t look it, but I’m the oldest New Zealand track and field athlete here in Glasgow) with lots of help from my coaches and support people like my partner Anita, my training group and other friends I am less than two weeks away from finally making my Commonwealth Games debut.
This isn’t a hard luck sob story. This is the reality of what some athletes might have to experience to achieve their goals and the glory life is only for an elite few. A lot of people say to me they can’t believe the sacrifices I have made to get here, but I just laugh. None of it has been a sacrifice just part of what was necessary to achieving my goals. If I had done anything less, then I would have taken the easy option, which for me was never an option. The only thing I would change in my athletics career is having my mum, Karen, (who died in November 2012) to be there in Glasgow to watch me. I hope that I have shown by working hard, not making excuses, believing and never taking the easy way out - other athletes in New Zealand will also see what is possible and that they too can achieve their goals.
I look forward to talking to you all again after the Games, but for now I have an opening ceremony to look forward to and a competition that I will take one event at a time. But know this, I will be giving my all as I always do.
Tom Walsh Shot Put
8 July 2014
In this athlete blog we hear from Tom Walsh, just before he gets a taste of the Commonwealth Games venue, competing in a Diamond League meeting in Glasgow and heavy training loads in Switzerland.
With the clock ticking ever closer to the Commonwealth Games I’m pleased to write that I’ve come out of the heavy block of training in good shape and I’m looking forward to making my competitive return at the Glasgow Diamond League meet this weekend at Hampden Park.
The competition in Scotland will give me a rare opportunity to check the condition of the same circle I will be competing in at the Commonwealth Games on July 28 (July 29 in New Zealand), but it will also be a great test competing against a world-class field.
I’ve just come off that heavy block of training, so I‘m not expecting my best competition of the season, but it will offer a useful gauge in terms of where my preparations are at and I will be hoping to throw further than I did in my last competition in Eugene in late May (where Tom threw 20.51m).
Having spent most of time down out here in Switzerland in the town of Grenchen, at the beginning of July I moved further up the mountain to the Swiss Olympic training base in Macolin.
It is much quieter up here, and although I wouldn’t want to spend a sustained period of time training here because of the secluded nature of the venue, I have the advantage of being only two minutes from the training track whereas before we had to travel 20 or 30 minutes.
Scotty (Scott McLaren) my flat-mate in Grenchen has now travelled on to the UK, but I’m lucky in that I’m not here on my own as my physio Vanessa Trent – who flew out on June 20 – is with me.
Having Vanessa around on hand to treat me every day has been a real boost. Normally I would see her once or twice a week but with more regular treatment it has helped my body feel loose and relaxed which has been perfect in the countdown to Comm Games.
As for my training, since the last blog I’m really pleased with where I’m at. Strength-wise everything is looking good. I got a double clean PB of 155kg and I did four sets of three full squats the other day at 190kg – which is more than ever before. My bench has gone up as well.
My throws are looking good in training –around the 20m mark – which is around the same distance as when I was fresh last year. Remember, as I’m throwing those distances off a heavy load those distances are very encouraging.
Technically I’ve also made some improvements. The only thing missing is maybe that explosive bang at the end of the throw – but if that was there at this stage, it would probably mean I’m not training hard enough!
I had a little break from the training routine by attending the Diamond League meeting in Lausanne last week. I competed at the event 12 months ago and it was nice to see the competition from the other side of the fence as a fan.
Of course, it was great to see Val win her 51st straight competition even if she was presented with 4kg block of cheese for her victory! I also enjoyed the men’s high jump – those guys are really flying at the moment – and the women’s javelin, where I know a couple of the Aussie girls who were competing.
Yet relaxing and watching athletics competition was a rare break. It is all about how I perform in Glasgow I can feel the excitement starting to build. More Commonwealth Games stories are starting to appear in the press. We are now not far away.
I’m sure competing in the Diamond League meeting in Glasgow will be a wee taster of what to expect later in the month. After the meet I’ll then fly to Cardiff for the pre-Games camp before flying out to the Czech Republic for a competition on July 16.
I’m going into Glasgow currently ranked No.1 in the Commonwealth and that brings with it certain expectations. However, it is something that if I want to achieve my aims in the sport I’ve just got to handle.
I’m trying to treat the Commonwealth Games as I would any other competition. I’m not attending the Opening Ceremony or getting caught up with too much of the hype. I only plan to fly into the Athletes’ Village a few days before my event – which is exactly the same as any other competition. It is funny, that one competition at the World Indoor Championships (when he won bronze with a PB 21.26m) changed everything. Yet I showed with my performance in Melbourne two week later (when he threw 21.16m) I could back it up.
Dylan Armstrong, the Canadian who won the 2013 World bronze medal, is out of the Games through injury but they are plenty of other athletes capable of challenging. One of those is Jacko (Gill). It was great news to hear of his PB of 20.70m in Rarotonga at the Oceania Championships last month. It is good to have another Kiwi throwing high 20m. I hope he’s fit and well in Glasgow, but it is not just about myself and Jacko - there are plenty of other guys out there capable of taking the top prize.
Now, though, the words have to end. All that matters are the actions.
Julia Ratcliffe Hammer
4 July 2014
This week we hear from hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe about her NCAA victory in Track Town USA, daily walks past Wimbledon (but not for the tennis), stepping up training, having a coach in person at training sessions and the luxury of spare time. Photo Courtesy: noelvalerophoto.com
I would like to start my latest blog by reflecting on my victory at last month's NCAA Championships. To win gold at such a prestigious event in the city of Eugene which is also know as “Track Town” - thanks to its rich association with athletics - is one of my two career highlights along with my fourth place finish at the 2012 World Junior Championships.
I knew I could win the NCAA title, but to actually deliver is an almost unreal feeling. I went there as pre-event favourite and I thought I coped very well with the pressure. My training had not gone so well for the two weeks leading into the event - largely due to fatigue after a long, hard season. I knew I needed to hang in there in terms of my preparation and to do so and win the title is an amazing feeling.
I was put in the first flight (group) of athletes, which meant I took three throws and then had to wait about an hour and a half for the second flight to complete their attempts before formally advancing to the final for my three final throws. For me, this was a new experience. I'm used to competitions where qualification takes place the day before the final or alternatively I've been drawn in the second flight and not had to endure the long wait.
It was important to keep focused during this lengthy period and I'm proud of the way I kept it together and improved through the competition. For me, this was the most significant achievement of the day.
After the competition I was presented with some flowers and encouraged to take a lap of honour. Due to the modest disposition of most New Zealanders, I think most Kiwis view an athlete taking a lap of honour as a little bit of a show off. I too was a bit uncomfortable with the thought, but waving the flowers around in celebration wasn't so bad - even if running 400m was not so pleasant!
That evening I celebrated my success by dining at the iconic Track Town Pizza in Eugene. The restaurant is famous for having pizzas named with a track theme, although I might disappoint some by saying I didn't order the hammer pizza. It had something on the topping I didn't like, so I ordered the triple jump, which was similar to an Hawaiian pizza.
The next day after winning the NCAA title I jumped on a plane to London where for the past couple of weeks I've been living at my auntie Kay's house along with my father and coach, Dave, in Wimbledon preparing for the Commonwealth Games.
The weather has so far been beautiful and my training set up has worked smoothly. I've found a track to train at – Wimbledon Park – which is only 200m down the road and we've been heading down to training at around 7:30am to avoid the busier period later in the day when the track is being frequently used for school sports days.
It is quite amusing that each morning en route to training I'm currently walking past a large queue of people waiting to buy tickets for the Wimbledon tennis tournament. We do get some funny looks and the odd comment as I walk past with a set of hammers in hand.
The preparations are progressing nicely. I was initially a little tired arriving in the UK off the back of my NCAA win, but my form is definitely heading in the right direction. I've stepped up my throwing from about 20 throws a day to around 28-30. With studying now over until August I can really focus 100 per cent on my athletics. In fact, I now have so much spare time on my hands, it makes me wonder how I was able to cope with the twin demands of study and training at Princeton.
However, the main benefit I'm currently receiving is that my dad and coach being on hand to iron out any technical flaws. While studying at Princeton my throws are all recorded, but the onus is on me to rectify any issues. Here with my dad and coach by my side, he will immediately call any changes I need to make which has been a huge advantage.
I'm currently training two days followed by one off and this has allowed me to explore London and little while my dad has also rented a car and we travelled down to Brighton on the English south coast for a day.
Now I'm in the UK, the hype for the Glasgow Games is slowly starting to build. However, I think, for me, it will be when I receive my uniform in Cardiff at the Pre-Games camp later this month when my excitement levels will really start to ramp up.
Until next time
Angie Smit 800m
30 June 2014
This week we hear from 800m runner Angie Smit about some stress around final assignments and exams, the relief of getting on the plane to head to Europe, competing against her fiance Sam, racing on a hard, wet, slippery track in Spain and what lies ahead.
I’m writing my latest blog from a summery UK, where I’m delighted to report that since I arrived here on June 7 the weather has been amazing. With the Commonwealth Games now just a month away it is hard to assess whether my journey to Glasgow has gone quickly or slowly, but it is a very exciting thought to know we are now so close.
My final few days in New Zealand were very busy before leaving for the UK. I had a number of commitments visiting schools, media-related activities and an exam on June 3, so it was almost a feeling of relief to step on the plane.
After so long apart from Sam (Petty), it was great to touch down and see my fiancé. I’ve been staying with his parents – Colin and Linda – who have been so warm and welcoming in their home village in North Devon - which is about a four-hour bus ride from London.
The training options here are very good. The track is a 20 min drive away, which is perfect, and they are some lovely countryside routes and it is also easy to access the beach to train on.
From a competitive point of view, I enjoyed my first European race of the year in Bilbao in northern Spain on June 21. The race itself didn’t quite pan out quite as I would have wanted. I hate to make excuses, but the track was probably one of the hardest I’ve ever run on. When it started to rain just before I went out on the track, this made the track very slippery.
I still ran 2:03.99 for second (in the 800m), behind a Cuban girl Rose Almanza (2:02) who has twice ran 1:59 this season. It was not a disaster, just not quite what I was looking for. Sam also ran there and it was great to meet up with my parents – Mike and Liz – in Bilbao. They are currently travelling around Spain and Portugal before heading over to the UK for the Commonwealth Games.
The other night I competed in a mixed-race at the local track here in Braunton where I achieved a first – I raced against Sam for the very first time! I was hand-timed at 2:03.1. Meanwhile, Sam ran 1:54 for second. Again, it wasn’t quite what I was looking for in terms of the time, but there is no need to panic.
I have been quite stressed finishing off a university report recently and now everything has settled down I’m confident the quicker times will follow. I know I’ve put in the hard yards with the hill reps and the strength work. I think once I’ve got a few more races in my belt, I’m sure I’ll be fine.
In term of my competitive plan, we have a range of race options – which I’m talking through with my agent – in the countdown to Comm Games.
I’d love to be able to compete at the Glasgow Diamond League event on July 11-12. However, it is a tough task to grab a lane at Diamond League events and I may need to run a little quicker than my season’s best of 2:01.53 to have a chance to be included.
The next few months will be very exciting for me. Sam has his partnership work visa to come to New Zealand and we are both flying back on October 6. Meanwhile, I’ll be attending his graduation on July 10 at the University of Birmingham.
I can feel the nerves starting to build. I’m still chasing that dream. When I take a step back I’m very excited.
I’ve a lot to look forward to.
Scott McLaren Decathlete
19 June 2014
This week Scott writes about the relief of being confirmed in the Glasgow team after 12 months of injury, surgery and rehab, chasing the final piece in the jigsaw, sharing his World Cup support between the Netherlands and Brazil, and life in Switzerland.
After a battle which has taken almost a full year since I underwent heel surgery, I can finally report that I've proved fitness to selectors and that I will be competing at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. I’ve known about my selection for the past week, but I have had to stay tight lipped until it was confirmed through the right channels.
In the end all it took was a 1.83m high jump, a height which pushed me beyond the threshold of points selectors had set me to achieve across five events.
It has been a long, hard road since my mum, Karen, passed away in November 2012. I’ve had a lot of support from my partner Anita and my coaches and close friends, there were a lot of doubters and naysayers and I take a lot of personal satisfaction from achieving not only my personal goals but proving a few people wrong.
My journey to achieve the points target I needed began in Auckland, the weekend before I flew out to Switzerland, where I have been living with Tom Walsh since the beginning of the month. I competed in several events at the winter meet in Auckland, but I was only satisfied with my discus and pole vault performances up at the Millennium.
My next competition in Basle I ran 11.22 for the 100m and running in scorching temperatures of 39c I managed a 50.68 400m – 0.79 quicker than I'd ran in Auckland.
In La Chaux-de-Fonds I jumped 1.83m which was enough. As soon as I cleared that height I told officials that was it and I wouldn't be jumping any higher. My work was done. Mission accomplished.
That night in celebration, Tom shouted me a feed at the local restaurant and let’s just say the big guy wasn’t feeling up to it, so I had to finish his meal also which must be a first.
I have to say, although I am very satisfied to finally confirm my place on the team the process of trying to prove fitness across the five events I don’t believe has been conducive to producing my best performance in Glasgow. I've devoted little training time to the other five decathlon disciplines in recent weeks, which is hardly ideal.
I've also been in Europe about five weeks earlier than I would have otherwise intended to be in an effort to prove fitness. I've taken unpaid leave from my role as strength and conditioning coach at Saint Kentigern's College and this has taken a hard toll both financially and personally as its not only a long time away from my partner but also the kids I spend so much time with and also provide me with a lot of my motivation.
Still, I now have five weeks or so to try and sharpen up for Glasgow as best I can. At this stage I can't take on too much of a heavy load because that could be detrimental in the long run. However, most of the fitness base is in there from years of hard training and now I just have to refresh the technical work.
I still also plan the odd competition between now and Glasgow, where I'll probably try and work on those other events – shot, javelin, 110m hurdles and long jump in particular. I intend to compete at La Chaux-de-Fonds again on July 6 before competing at the Welsh International on July 15 shortly after I arrive in Cardiff for the pre-Games training camp.
I have personal goals in Glasgow, but the competition will be fierce with several men competing in Glasgow having scored over 8000pts in the past year including World Championships bronze medallist Damian Warner of Canada. I go into the competition ranked around sixth or seventh, but I'll certainly be there to give it a good crack.
Each day in Switzerland passes by pretty quickly. Besides training time, I find I'm still working with my athletes back at Saint Kent's and some other individuals while in my downtime I've been watching some of the World Cup games.
I have Dutch heritage in my family so I like to follow the fortunes of the Netherlands and I've also spent a bit of time in Rio so I like Brazil. About 100m down the road is a bar which shows all the football matches and the night of Switzerland's 2-1 victory over Ecuador the whole town seemed to come out to celebrate. The noise from the fans seemed to last all night as did the car horns. I had the next day off training, but Tom woke up the next morning fuming he hardly had any sleep that night because of the excessive celebrations. I thought he was going to punch someone!
Until next time
Tom Walsh Shot Putter
12 June 2014
In this athlete blog we hear from Tom Walsh, reflecting on an amazing summer season, the effect that it has had on his life, competing in Track Town USA, training PB's and competitions leading up to the Glasgow Games.
It is been a while since my last Athletics NZ blog and I’ve had much to reflect on over the past three months or so. My summer season which included that national record (21.21m) and bronze medal winning throw at the World Indoor Championship was an “out of this world” moment for me and one I still cherish.
The next week I was delighted I could then back that up in Melbourne with another 21m throw, and although I was tired from the travelling of the previous month and not feeling at my absolute best at NZ champs, I was pleased to throw 20.79m and defeat Jacko.
My season has opened up an amazing amount of doors and I’m pleased to say I’m now a Nike sponsored athlete. My life has changed a wee bit too. The demands on my time are now a little greater because of increased expectations from sponsors and for some reason the media still want to speak to me even three months after the World Indoors!
I’m also enjoying training out here in Switzerland where I’ll be based for the next three-and-a-half months.
It is also good to be sharing a flat with my fellow Athletics NZ blogger Scott McLaren because as much as he can be a pain in the backside, it is good to be able to talk to someone as it can have its lonely moments living and training in Europe.
Yet as much as I enjoy the lifestyle of being an international athlete, it is not something I think I could solely do 12 months a year. When I return to New Zealand I still intend to return to building work because for me it can provide a nice distraction and pressure valve from the constant demands of training and competing.
People have asked me did I take a lengthy break after the New Zealand nationals, but I was back in training just two days later. I knew with the relatively tight turnaround between NZ champs and the Commonwealth Games I had to get in a heavy block of training in order to be in the best shape possible for Glasgow.
In terms of my gym work and strength gains, I’m well ahead of the game. I lifted two power cleans of 150kg for the first time the other day and with more testing planned in three or four weeks time I‘m hoping for some more PB’s.
Technically, I have made a few adjustments since the domestic season in terms of trying to get my left front to the front of the circle faster. One of the reasons why my form was so good in the summer season - was I was pushing straight through the shot. That is not quite happening at the moment with my current technique because I’m throwing slightly more rotationally and going around the shot rather than through it. I know over the next six weeks I have a lot of work to make sure that power is going straight through the shot again. However, I‘m pretty confident everything will work out well and, encouragingly, I had a good technical training session the other day.
As many of you may be aware I also competed at the Diamond League meet in Eugene last month which was a great experience. Eugene known as ‘Track Town’ is the spiritual home of US athletics and the whole place seems to have a great knowledge and appreciation of the sport.
I was very happy with how I competed there. All five legitimate throws were beyond 20m and to throw a best of 20.51m when I’m in the middle of my preparations for Glasgow and in a heavy training period was satisfying, especially given I had a 12-hour plane ride to get there which wasn’t the easiest prep in the world.
It was in Eugene where I also picked up 30kg worth of my Nike gear, which was pretty exciting. I thought their travel bags with the words track and field on the side were pretty cool and I also really liked the waterproof jacket and competition singlet.
As for the next six weeks or so I still know I have a lot of hard work to put in, so I’m not allowing myself to get too excited just yet about the Commonwealth Games.
We train at a location about half an hour away with a track and a gym, so it’s a great set up. We’ve even found an amazing pool. I'm lucky in that I spend time training with Valerie (Adams) and her coach JP (Jean-Pierre Egger), who acts as another set of eyes during sessions.
My next competition is scheduled for the Diamond League meet in Glasgow (July 11-12) before I then compete at a throws meet in the Czech Republic on July 16. I will then fly on to Cardiff for the pre-event training base, from where I’ll be finalising my preparations for Comm Games.
I look forward to catching up for my next blog when we’ll be on the verge of the big event in Glasgow.
Until next time
Julia Ratcliffe Hammer
5 June 2014
This week we hear from hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe in Princeton about breaking through the 70 metres mark and extending her New Zealand record (again), heading to Eugene, Oregon for the NCAAs as favourite, plans for the Commonwealth Games and the end of the university year. Photo
I'm now just over a week away from the NCAA Championships – the biggest competition of my American season – and I could not be happier with the way the season has so far panned out.
Since my last blog, I've remained unbeaten in hammer for the year and bettered my New Zealand record again with 70.28m (at Princeton on Apr 19) - significantly breaching the 70m mark for the first time in my career.
It is an unreal feeling to join the 70m club. I'm immensely proud of the achievement.
As I've intimated in previous blogs, this year I've taken a much more relaxed attitude into competitions and it seems to have paid dividends. I'll be taking exactly the same approach into NCAA's where I'm currently ranked No.1 in my event.
I believe I've learned a lot from my NCAA debut last year. There I put myself under far too much pressure to do something special in an effort to win and ended up 11th.
The NCAA's is a big deal for me and I want to win. Having said that, there is not a lot I can do to influence how the other competitors throw so I just have to go out there and focus on my performance. If I throw well technically, the distance will follow and that’s all I really have control over.
I also think it helps that NCAA's are staged in Eugene, Oregon as they were last year. Eugene is known as 'Track Town' because of its unrivalled passion for athletics in the USA. The community is very knowledgeable and passionate about the sport and the city even has a pizza restaurant with track themed pizzas. I'm also a huge fan of the relaxed and friendly attitude of the people on the West Coast of the US, so I'm relishing the prospect of competing there.
However, although I may be adopting a more relaxed attitude to competitions, I'm certainly not complacent. I realise most of my longest throws have come at Princeton. My best distance outside of my home circle is 67.75m and this is something I'm keen to improve upon.
I do love throwing at Princeton. It is one of the best circles I've trained at. Sometimes other circles can be slicker, which makes it harder to grip and this can lead to a technical breakdown.
It could well be that I feel more relaxed throwing in Princeton and that is also why throw my best there. Nonetheless, I'm not going to fixate on this. Most of the bigger stadiums have slick circles and all the competitors face the same conditions.
As for my studies here at Princeton I finished by final exams for the year a week or so ago.
This is a relief as it now allows me to pour a lot more of my energy into hammer throwing. Many of the students have now left campus, although it is not necessarily any quieter.
A big reunion takes place on campus – which is, apparently, one of the biggest beer orders for an event in the US. The event can get pretty rowdy, although as I'm not yet a graduate I unfortunately don't get an invite, so I won't be partaking in the revelry.
Those who've followed my previous blogs will be aware of my tiger outfit that I've been known to don for the occasional Ivy League and college sports event. Well at the Ivy League meet at New Haven after my competition I wore it again and I was interviewed http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtDJMzVxi_M
I'm slightly sad to report it will be the last time I will wear that particular suit as a male student borrowed it from me and somehow managed to stretch it by about three sizes. He has at least bought me a replacement - more of a Tigger suit – which will be set for an airing at some point in the future.
Moving away from the tiger talk I realise we are now less than two months away from the Commonwealth Games and moving towards the critical final period in my preparations.
I'll be flying to London to meet up with auntie and dad (Dave, my coach) on June 14 while my mum and sister will be arriving in the UK on July 11. I'm really excited at the prospect of seeing them. I look forward to writing my next blog from the UK.
Until next time
Scott McLaren Decathlete
15 May 2014
This week Scott writes about selection frustrations, plans to link up with Tom Walsh in Switzerland as part of his final Games preparations and why he is sporting a bushy beard.
For those who followed the recent announcement will know, the NZOC have said I will be selected for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games subject to form and fitness, to be confirmed by June 30.
This is hugely frustrating news for me as I’ve already secured the qualification mark. It certainly adds an unwanted pressure for the next month or so and it is far from an ideal situation.
For me, the road to Glasgow has proved an uphill battle and it seems that at every turn I’ve faced a new obstacle to overcome.
As regular readers of this blog will know since undergoing surgery on my heel last spring the recovery process has taken much longer than hoped. This has restricted both my training and competitive schedule.
My overall fitness at the moment is pretty good. My throws are going really well and in the past couple of weeks in training I’ve been throwing longer distances in shot and discus than I produced when setting the qualification standard last year. I’m also sprinting in spikes for 60m and hoping to gradually build on the distance.
Luckily, because I have a good few years in the bank with all the training throughout my career it won’t take me too long to regain top fitness. Where I really need to quickly start work is on some of the more technical aspects of training.
I don’t yet know the specifics of what I need to do to prove fitness, I will find that out shortly, but I hope I would convince the NZOC to select me earlier rather than later to allow me to fully focus on Glasgow.
St Kentigern’s College - where I work as a strength and conditioning coach - have generously allowed me to take time off work for me to fly out to Europe at the beginning of June.
I will land in Switzerland on June 2 where I will meet up with Tom Walsh the World Indoor shot bronze medallist - and we will share a two bedroom apartment in the town of Grenchen near Biel.
The plan then is to compete in three low-key Swiss meets on June 7, 9 and 14 before competing at a couple of Belgian meets at the beginning of July. I then hope to fly out to our pre-Games training base in Cardiff.
Tom is very lucky lad in that I’ve already booked the accommodation and the rental car. I think it’s obvious that I’m the boss. I’ve never lived with Tom before but I imagine I’ll be doing the cooking and he can do the cleaning. Mind, I don’t think I’ll need to cook too many vegetables for him as he looks like a pure steak man!
Those who have seen me recently will know I have been sporting a very masculine looking beard. This was part of a bet struck by the boys I work with for the St Kentigern's 1st XV rugby team, who insisted I had to grow a beard and that I was only allowed to shave it off after they lost their first game. After three pre-season wins I’ve had the beard for a month. They open their regular season on Saturday and it is starting to look so good, I might dye it grey to give it the George Clooney look.
On a more serious note, the next month or so will be telling. I feel a lot of nervous tension, but at least I have a little bit of time left.
Angie Smit 800m
7 May 2014
This week we hear from 800m runner Angie Smit about the building level of excitement, photoshoots and keeping her feet on the ground. There's also the matter of a wedding to plan for and a wedding dress to organise!
With less than 100 days to go to the Commonwealth Games, I can sense the excitement starting to build. I was really stoked to win the 800m and 1500m double at the national champs – particularly given the quality of the opposition I was up against in Wellington.
Then last month to have my selection confirmed for Glasgow was pretty cool. I know it sounds cheesy, but it really is a dream come true for me.The big press conference I attended to confirm to announcement of the NZ athletics team for Glasgow really brought home the importance of what I had achieved.
It is funny - since I have been called up to the Commonwealth Games team, I have had far more people congratulating me than when I was called up to the World Championship team last year. Yet that just goes to show the prestige in which the Commonwealth Games is held by the New Zealand public.
Lots of exciting opportunities have also come my way in the past couple of months. I have become a part of the Sky Next programme - an amazing initiative to help young Kiwi athletes take on the world in a range of different sports.
I also was asked to do a photoshoot for Women’s Own magazine with my fiancé Sam – who come over from the UK for a couple of weeks recently. We were photographed at three different locations with three outfit changes and they did my hair and make up. They even put a bit of foundation on Sam, which was funny.
Yes, my life has been quite crazy over the past few months and I think securing selection for the Commonwealth Games has played a big part in that. I can feel the hype building for Glasgow. There is more of a buzz in the media about the event and I even had people in the gym this morning ask me if they could take a photo with me!
Yet although I am very excited by the prospect of competing for my country in Scotland - I know I have to keep my feet on the ground. Plenty of hard work lies ahead - especially if I want to fulfil my dreams and win a medal at the Commonwealth Games.
After a slow start to the summer season because of illness I thankfully managed to return to full health and I was really happy with the way the season finished. After Wellington I took a week-and-a-half off before returning to training.
The past few weeks have gone well. I spent some time training down in Queenstown with Sam – a venue I love. The wetter weather more recently has made training on the grass track in Christchurch more challenging but if conditions become too tricky I can always switch training venues to the track at Timaru.
I was disappointed with my performance at the Hagley Relays last weekend. I ran the 4km leg in a time slower than I ran last year. However, I’m not too despondent because two days later I ran a faster first 4km of a 5km tempo run in training, which encouraged me that I was simply suffering an off day at the Hagley Relay. I was also really happy for my team-mate Rosa Flanagan, who ran more than a minute faster than me in a course record time.
It was great to see Sam again after four-and-a-half months apart – albeit for just two weeks because he had to return to the UK for exams. We enjoyed an engagement party at my parent’s house in Rangiora and we had more than 100 guests there. We were also baptised on Waimairi beach in Christchurch, which was really special for us.
The wedding plans for later this year are also starting to take shape – although I haven't yet sorted out a wedding dress for the occasion.
As for the next month or so it is all about training hard and preparing for Glasgow. I have an exam on June 3 and I will then leave for Europe a few days later. I hope to compete in Ostrava and at one or two of the Diamond League meets before the Games plus several other international meets. It would be great to compete at the Glasgow Diamond League meet to help familiarise me with Hampden Park ahead of the Commonwealth Games - which of course, remains my chief focus for the exciting international season ahead.
Until next time
Julia Ratcliffe Hammer
16 April 2014
This week we hear from hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe in Princeton about her recent excellent form including extending her New Zealand record, training in Florida and a marathon session at Disney World.
At last I can report some competitive hammer results and I’m delighted to write that I bettered my own New Zealand hammer record with 69.60m at the weekend.
I’ve been throwing well recently. In New Jersey the previous week I threw 68.71m – which was just 0.09 short of my then national record. In fact, I threw three times over 67m there, which I felt at the time to be the best competition of my life.
Yet at the Princeton Quad Meet I added a further 0.80cm to my national record and come very close to the 70m mark – which is now to be my next target.
Since my last blog a lot has happened in my athletics world. After an eight-month break from hammer competition I returned for a meeting in Orlando on March 22. Since then I’ve competed every weekend – improving my level of performance on each occasion.
I’m also delighted to write that my selection was confirmed for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games team, which is a great relief after all the hard work over the winter months. To have my place in the team rubber stamped is a big weight off my shoulders and now I can fully focus on my goals for the Games.
As I’ve mentioned in one or two of my past blogs, for me, this season is all about taking a different approach to how I assess success and failure. If I focus on trying to throw far – I lose sight of how I am going to do that. So during a competition I try and treat it - as much as I can - like I’m in a training environment. I try to stay relaxed and not get too caught up in the results. This often means I focus more on the process and while throwing a personal best is still very exciting, I feel more of a quiet, personal satisfaction, when I achieve other goals such as mental focus, consistency or good technique
I’m also stronger than I’ve ever been in the past. I know this is only one way of measuring my current fitness levels and pure strength does not always match up to the distances that I will throw but often the weights don’t lie. My cleans are better than ever and I’m doing 3x6 at 165lbs, which is encouraging.
Since my last blog I went on a one week training trip with the Princeton squad to Florida over Spring Break, which was a huge success. I managed to get out of the cold weather on New Jersey and put in a good week’s training – even though I managed to lose a hammer for a couple of days. The hammer field at our training base in Orlando was excellent, but the first throw I did there went out the left and landed in some tall, wiry grass. Frustratingly, I didn’t keep my eye on exactly where the hammer landed. The grass looks like hammer wire and despite three of us searching high and low for 45 minutes we had to concede defeat in our quest to try and salvage the implement.
It was only a couple of days later when I had another look did I manage to find the wayward hammer.
We also managed one day off from training and experienced 15 hours of Disney by going to all four parks at Disney World. One of the other members of the squad enabled us to get cheap tickets, so we visited all four parks starting out when gates open at 9am and not leaving until gates shut at midnight. We even managed to see the fireworks over Cinderella’s castle – the image you often see of Disney World.
As for the next month or so I’ll pretty much be competing every weekend leading up the NCAA Championship in June. The competitions will come thick and fast and I’ll hopefully be able to maintain and build on my early season form.
After NCAA’s I’ll then head over to Europe to fine tune my preparations for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, where I’ll hopefully be among the medal contenders in the women's hammer.
Until next time
Joseph Millar Sprints
9 April 2014
In this week's blog, we hear from Tauranga sprinter Joseph Millar about a a successful but disappointing end to the track season and what lies ahead for the treble - double New Zealand champion.
I’m disappointed to write that I’ve ran out of both time and races to achieve my goal of qualifying for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. My last opportunity came at the Australian Championships in Melbourne last weekend. I performed well in what was the most competitive Aussie Champs I’ve ever experienced, placing third in the 100m in 10.61 and second in the 200m in 21.25. But this was some way outside the qualification standards set to win selection. The conditions were far from ideal and differed each day of the competition. The first day, for example, were we running with the help of a tailwind but in cool temperatures. The final day it was very hot, but we were running into a headwind.
I had hoped to win the 200m and maybe take out the 100m, but it wasn’t to be. The knee injury which has hampered me from producing my absolute best this season struggled to settle down and did not allow me to move as freely as I would have liked. When I reached top speed it started to restrict my movement. It did not allow me to strike the ground where I would want to or with quite the amount of force I would like.
At the New Zealand nationals the previous weekend everything went really well. My improved strength from the hard work I put in during the winter really started to show – especially how I worked through the headwind on the bend. In Melbourne it didn’t work out as I would have wanted.
It is frustrating because the injury has not allowed me to produce my best or put in sufficient training to produce the times which would have booked my ticket for Glasgow. I was confident it was going to happen, but the injury made it very difficult to execute the plan.
Still, I have to remain positive. I’ve been probably more dominant this season domestically than in previous years. I would have loved to have gone to Glasgow but I just have to look forward and get ready for next season.
I plan to take a couple of weeks off now and hopefully the rest period will help clear up the injury. Then with the help of my coach (Kerry Hill) we will come up with a good plan for next year and the events we want to target.
For the next few weeks I’ll look at trying to get my life back in check and tidy up all the things in my life that have been put on hold while competing this summer. I hope to catch up on my studies and spend some time with dad down in Ohakune.
As for the Commonwealth Games, I’m sure I’ll be having a few late nights watching the action with a keen eye on Angie (Smit), Jacko (Gill), Tom (Walsh), Siositina (Hakeai) and Julia (Ratcliffe) - athletes I know personally. Hopefully, when the 100m and 200m take place I won’t be disappointed and it will act as a spur to fire me up to one day qualify.
Thanks for following my Athletics NZ blog
National track & Field Championships 2014
Three of our regular bloggers at Athletics NZ will be competing at the NZ Track & Field Championship in Wellington later this week. We gauge the thoughts of emerging shot put star Tom Walsh, rising middle-distance talent Angie Smit and sprinter Joseph Millar, who is gunning for a very rare sequence of success.
With the much hyped clash against Jacko Gill now finally almost here, I can’t wait for the competition start. I’m very happy with my current form and what has pleased me most was the fact I was able to back up my bronze medal at the World Indoor Championships with a 21.16m throw – just 0.10cm less than I threw in Sopot – for a NZ outdoor record in Melbourne last weekend.
I have been surprised by the amount of attention the battle between myself and Jacko has received – but it is all positive for the sport - and particularly the shot. We are still two young kids and the rivalry might be one which lasts for a long time.
It has been good for me to return from Poland and spend a couple of weeks in Melbourne – away from the hype in New Zealand. It has allowed me to focus on training and not become distracted.
Competing in my national championships always means a lot to me and I'll be desperate to land my fifth successive New Zealand title at the weekend.
I often only compete three or four times a year in New Zealand so Wellington will be special. I can’t wait. May the best guy win.
I’m pleased to write that the knee problem which has hampered my training for much of the season has finally started to settle down and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can produce at the New Zealand Track & Field Championships
The knee was sore in the week leading into the Sydney Track Classic and I was forced to skip a couple of days training. However, by the meet itself it felt much better and I managed to equal my lifetime best of 20.81 for 200m and run a 100m season’s best of 10.39, which was fun.
Since then I’ve encountered no more problems with the knee. I’ve managed to put in some quality training time and I’m optimistic I can land a third successive sprint double at nationals.
Winning a national title is still a great honour. To sit top of the pile in your own country is still a big deal and it will be no easy task, especially as I have the target on my back. However, this weekend is not only about winning titles. I also have ambitions still to make the New Zealand team for Commonwealth Games. To do that - I need to run at least a B standard of 10.21 and 20.60 for 100m and 200m, respectively.
I have two more opportunities to secure the time; this weekend in Wellington, where the weather conditions will hopefully be perfect, and the following weekend at Aussie nationals in Melbourne. One thing is for sure I'll be trying my very best.
I’m pleased to write that going into the NZ Track & Field Championships – my final race of the domestic season – I’m now back to full health and firing on all cylinders. The cyst, which was causing me pain and hampering my ability to perform to my best during the first half of the season, is now firmly behind me and I’ve been really pleased with my performances in recent weeks.
I ran my quickest ever 800m race ever in New Zealand with my 2:01 at Canterbury Championships while my 4:13 at the Auckland Grand Prix – was five seconds quicker than I’d ever ran in my homeland for the 1500m. I was a shade disappointed to place third in 2:02 Sydney behind the world champion Eunice Sum but I was running on a wet track and the first lap was a little quicker than expected. However, being right in the mix with an athlete of Sum’s stature was still an incredible experience.
Looking ahead to the NZ champs I’m entered for the 800m and 1500m and I’m really looking forward to testing myself against some top quality opposition. Nikki Hamblin is entered for both races while the likes of Lucy van Dalen and Camille Buscomb will also compete in the 1500m. We are very lucky to be experiencing a boom time for women’s middle-distance running in New Zealand and it is a privilege to be a part of this. In terms of my ambitions for Wellington I would like to win both the 800m and the 1500m. However, I know the size of the challenge ahead of me. I’m up against some quality girls, so I’m taking nothing for granted.
***Athletics NZ’s other two bloggers on The Road to Glasgow - decathlete Scott McLaren and US-based hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe - are not competing at the 2014 NZ Track & Field Championships in Wellington.
Tom Walsh Shot Putter
9 March 2014
In this special athlete blog, we hear from Tom Walsh after he has 'shot' to international athletics prominence, winning a bronze medal at the World Indoor champs. He tells us what it feels like, the reaction of his family, what he did to celebrate and why he won't be resting on his laurels just yet.
I'm writing my latest blog, the morning after the night before. The evening when I won a bronze medal at the World Indoor Championships and set an Oceania indoor record of 21.26m. To even write those words is still so surreal. I can't believe I was standing on that podium at the medal ceremony seeing the New Zealand flag raised. I expected to see it here in Sopot for Valerie or Nick Willis, but for me? People have asked me what the feeling is like to win a bronze medal at a World Indoor Championships and I really can't describe it. I came here for the experience and a top eight spot in my first major competition, it really is amazing.
Interest in me, which I still struggle to comprehend, has gone through the roof since winning bronze. After the competition I was conducting three ten-minute media phone interviews and when I got off the phone I had 15 missed calls. I haven't even checked Facebook yet, I'm too scared! I might take a bit more out time out before daring to log on.
The first people I spoke to back home were my parents – Peter and Karen. My mum said she was so overcome with emotion she cried, while my dad was at a loss for words to describe what had just happened. It has been an amazing adventure.
Prior to Sopot, I spent ten days preparing in Biel in Switzerland with Valerie Adams and her coach, Jean-Pierre Egger, which was a real privilege. This period of time really helped put the final gloss on my preparations. Of course, the vast majority of the hard work was put in with my coach Ian Baird and strength and conditioning coach Andrew McLennan in the many months if not years before the championships. Although getting to throw with someone like Val is a massive opportunity, because it is not everyday you get the chance to throw with a two-time Olympic champ.
Getting used to the cold weather in Biel – it got to as low as -5c – was a little tough after the New Zealand summer. However, I came into Sopot confident as I was throwing 20.80m in training, so I knew if everything clicked I could achieve 21m. I also took into the championships a positive attitude and I knew I had everything to gain and nothing to lose.
The World Indoor Championships were my first ever indoor competition and I had to contend with a few different challenges. An indoor shot circle is wooden as opposed to concrete – the norm for an outdoor competition - and while the fundamentals of throwing the shot remain the same, the wooden circle is marginally slower. Another consideration is the shot area is generally a little smaller for indoor competition as it cuts into a straight line from about 14m.
I slept well the night before competition, although I have to admit I was a lot more nervous and edgy for the qualification session than I was for my final. Going into my third and final throw during qualification I was in the eighth and final qualification place which was leaving no margin for error, but I thankfully managed 20.41m with my final throw to move up to sixth and advance to the final.
I felt far more relaxed in the final because I had nothing to lose and I was encouraged by my first throw, even though it was a foul, because it landed around 21m. To be honest, I'd been a bit lazy and placed my foot on top of the stop board. I pulled my second round throw a little early and it landed out of the sector, so I was relieved to get in a valid throw of 20.12m in round three. From that point it was onwards and upwards. I managed to make a few small technical adjustments and even the 20.88m throw in round five – which moved me up to fifth overall – didn't feel that great, so I knew there was more to come.
I wasn't sure when my final throw landed whether it was good enough for bronze, which at that stage was held by Tomasz Majewski with 21.04m. Thankfully, it was and once the distance flashed up that I'd thrown 21.26m - the best throw of my life in the biggest competition of my life – I couldn't quite believe it.
I still had a nervous wait to know whether it would enough for bronze, but when the double Olympic champion and home favourite from Poland Tomasz Majewski's final effort went out to 20,77m I knew I'd won bronze. Tomasz was actually the first guy who came up to me to shake my hand afterwards which says a lot about the quality of the man.
The night of my final I went out for two or three beers with JP (Jean-Pierre Egger), Scott Goodman (Athletics NZ High Performance Director) and a couple of the South Africa throwers. I finally took the medal off just before I went to bed – for fear I might strangle myself! – and I managed to get three or four hours sleep because I was on a huge buzz, not from the alcohol, but winning bronze.
People have said winning the medal will change my life and I guess over time I might come to realise that. As for the future, well there is no chance to rest and sit on my laurels. After these champs, I fly straight back for a couple of weeks training in Melbourne to lead right through to the Melbourne World Challenge meeting on March 22. I'll then move on to the New Zealand Track and Field Champs in Wellington. The long term goal? Glasgow and those Commonwealth Games which are now coming even closer into view. Yet when I do get the chance to reflect on what I achieved in Sopot it can can only serve to fill me with huge confidence for the weeks and months of training ahead.
Until next time
Joseph Millar Sprints
3 March 2014
In this week's blog, we hear from Tauranga sprinter Joseph Millar about a frustrating knee injury that he is managing as he strives for sprinting perfection and qualifying marks.
Unfortunately, I can’t avoid writing about the knee injury which has caused me huge frustration in recent weeks and has not allowed me to produce anything like my best.
I’ve had the problem since the Tauranga Twlight meeting on New Year’s Day and while the injury initially did not cause me too much of an issue, it has sadly worsened and will not go away.
The problem is when I try and accelerate and reach full speed my knee is prone to giving way from underneath me. It is not causing pain, but what happens is the muscles around the knee appear to switch off and the left knee turns to jelly. We are not really sure what is causing the knee injury but it could well be any number of issues are creating the problem.
It started out that I would feel the problem during warm up but 10 minutes later it would vanish. Now it can take up to an hour to go away. I’ve tried a whole variety of methods to cure the injury from physiotherapy, massage, stretching, heat, ice, electrotherapy, aqua-jogging and acupuncture, even rest, but none seem to have cured the injury.
I’m managing to get through about 80 per cent of my training, but the quality of the work is nowhere near as high as I would like. The instability in the knee is incredibly frustrating because I know that if it was to disappear I could produce so much more and the difference in my times over the next 4-5 weeks would be huge. In my last outing at the Waikato Championships I ran 10.47 for the 100m and 21.72 into a headwind in the 200m, so I’m not running too badly given how many training has been compromised.
The season is already starting to draw to an end, but I haven’t given up hope of making that Commonwealth standard for the 100m, 200m or with the New Zealand team for the 4x100m. It is now all about opportunities and I still plan to race at the Sydney Track Classic this weekend and then I have outings at the New Zealand Championships in Wellington and the Aussie Champs at the beginning of next month. I know if the knee problem is fixed and with a little fine tuning I can still make it to Glasgow.
As regular readers of my blog will know, track and field is a huge part of my life and I recently attended the annual school sport’s day at my old school, Aquinas College. It was good fun to watch the pupils in action and good to catch up with my old teachers. I also raced the kids in a 100m handicap and after giving them a 40m start – I managed to beat all but two of them!
I’ve also been keeping a keen eye on how the other New Zealand athletes have been performing. I’ve been pleased to read about Mike Cochrane’s breakthrough in the 400m hurdles, after he set a New Zealand record in the 400m hurdles in Perth. Like me, Mike is from Tauranga and watching his progress has been inspirational.
All I can do is stay optimistic for the future and not dwell on the negatives. I won’t stop trying in my quest for the Commonwealth Games. I just have to go out and try and execute the best race that I can.
Until next time
Julia Ratcliffe Hammer
26 February 2014
This week we hear from hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe in Princeton about planning training in snow and freezing temperatures, improving her weight throw PB, looking forward to training in Florida and fulfilling her goal of competing in a Princeton speed suit.
Readers of my last blog will remember that Princeton was caught in an icy grip as freezing temperatures hit the USA. Well, for the past six weeks the ice and snow has remained making training outside a demanding challenge.
Trips through two feet of snow to the hammer circle have to be planned with precision, if I’m to carry out a full training session. I’ve worked out that if the weather forecast for the following day is sunny I will trudge down to the hammer circle and clear the snow with a shovel down to a thin layer of ice. The sun will then, hopefully, melt away the remaining ice which leaves me free to train the next day.
I can’t say that the experience is fun, although I tell myself that my rivals might not be doing this, so hopefully, it will give me an edge when it comes to competition.
Back in the relative warmth of the indoor arena, I’m pleased to report I'm happy with how my weight throw competitions have gone. So far this winter I‘ve recorded six wins out of six and in my last outing in New Haven I threw 19.78m to add an extra 0.04cm to my personal best.
My university team-mates seemed delighted to tell me it was a new Princeton record , but I had to remind them it was also a New Zealand record. I think that they overlooked that significant fact!
I still plan one or two more weight competitions this indoor season and I’m especially looking forward to the Ivy League Champs in Dartmouth this weekend. As a freshman last year I was blown away by the raucous noise generated by the fans and it is an event I’m really looking forward to performing well in.
As miserable as the weather has been over the past couple of months here I console myself with the thought that during spring break next month the squad will travel down to train in Florida, which should mean guaranteed sun.
I remember last year receiving a huge injection of energy from the trip to Florida and I’m hoping it will be the same again this time. The break is also significant because at the end of that week I’ll be competing in Orlando - in what will be my first hammer competition for nine months.
As I’ve said before in previous blogs I’m trying to peak later in the season than I did last year, so I’m not getting too carried away at this stage about what I can potentially achieve in my first hammer competition of the year. However, it will, obviously be a useful early gauge as to where I’m at in the countdown to the Commonwealth Games and I do hope to throw well.
Glasgow 2014 has occupied my mind a lot more recently, especially following the results coming out of New Zealand. I’m happy to read about Tom Walsh’s performances in the shot and I was also really pleased that another member of the thrower’s union, Siositina Hakeai, recently attained the Commonwealth Games B standard for the discus.
As for my studies, I’ve decided to take four classes rather than five this semester which allows me to manage my workload a little better. I really enjoy the US university system because it allows me to study a wide breadth of subjects. I’m currently taking statistics, comparative politics and a course called architecture, globalisation and the environment. The latter subject is interesting because I’m hoping to apply what I’m studying to the effects of the earthquake on Christchurch.
Meanwhile, I have to admit that I might be at a small competitive advantage compared to some of my fellow marcoeconomics students because we have an Australian professor. I say this because many of the students complain that they can’t understand a word whereas being a Kiwi I'm a little more familiar with the accent.
I can’t wrap up my latest blog without saying – I finally fulfilled my desire to compete n a Princeton speed suit (pictured above - Julia on the right with Princeton team-mates). Readers of a previous blog will know I was keen to carry out the vow and I finally did so at a local Princeton meet in the weight throw. I think maybe some people thought I was serious, but all in all the competition went well and I won with a throw of 19.28m.
Some people have asked me what piece of athletics attire do I plan to wear next? Yet I think it is time now to be 100 per cent focused on the job in hand. I look forward to sharing with you in my next blog about how my opening hammer competition of the season went in Florida.
Until next time
Angie Smit 800m
19 February 2014
This week we hear from Angie Smit about her recent racing form, a first visit to Adelaide, buying dresses for weddings a colouring competition and her upcoming race schedule including the ITM this weekend.
Unfortunately, the season so far has been one of frustration as health issues have prevented me from producing my absolute best in training and racing. I’ve been struggling with a cyst, which has left me feeling quite run down as well as causing a nasty pain in my side. On top of that doctor’s also diagnosed that I've also had an infection.
Since suffering with glandular fever last year, I think it has, perhaps, weakened my immune system. However, my latest health problems have been unpredictable, so some days I feel close to a 100 per cent while on others I will really struggle. I’m generally able to complete most sessions, but often the quality is not quite what it could be.
Of course, I get both worried and upset when I don’t run so well. That 1500m race at the Porritt Classic when I ran 4:25 – which was 14 seconds off my PB - was especially disappointing. Yet I have to remember I have overcome much worse with the glandular fever. I have to think back to then and how I couldn’t run at all and at least I’m training and racing at the moment.
I also have to remind myself that I’m way ahead of where I was last year. I only ran 2:07 (for the 800m) at the 2013 NZ nationals before going on to run 2:00 in the international season, so I know that given a run of good health I am more than capable of running my best.
Also, since my last outing in Adelaide last weekend, where I ran 2:04 to finish third in the 800m I have started to feel a lot better – which is encouraging. Hopefully, the worst is now behind me and I can look ahead to the rest of the season with confidence.
It was my first ever trip to Adelaide and I really enjoyed the city. It is a lot quieter than a bigger city like Sydney, but it also had some really attractive areas and I enjoyed an hour-long run down by the River Torrens. I spend quite a bit of time with Camille Buscomb and I’m really pleased with how her season is going. It was a great 5000m PB for her Adelaide. For myself, I probably didn’t run the smartest tactical race in the 800m. I took on the pace myself but it was quite windy and I should have perhaps sat behind the other girls and kicked off them.
As for future racing plans, I’m really looking forward to the ITM meet in Christchurch. I live just outside of the city and many of my first memories were racing there as a ten-year-old. It also gives me the opportunity for many of my family and friends to watch me race, which is always really exciting. We’ve got a good 800m field this year and with Nikki Hamblin and Laura Crowe also in the field it will be a great event.
I’ve also got to mention a cute little colouring in competition that Classic Hits radio station helped run. The kids were asked to colour in a picture of me and Tom Walsh and we had to pick the best one. It was really hard to pick a winner but eventually chose the picture of the girl who had me dressed in little pink, shorts. I used to love colouring in as a child and I thought it was a great idea. The winner was then given 30 tickets for the meet and could invite either their entire school class or 30 friends.
Beyond ITM, the following week I plan to run the 800m and 1500m double at the Canterbury Champs, before moving on to the Auckland GP. I’ll then compete over 800m at the Sydney Classic before the NZ Champs at the end of March.
I won’t be competing in Melbourne on March 22 this year because it clashes with my brother, Johnny’s wedding. I bought my outfit for the day – a grey/silvery dress made out of 70 per cent silk. I bought it from a real nice shop in Adelaide and although I don’t normally shop somewhere that expensive – the dress was on sale!
On the subject of shopping, I’ve also been looking at a few wedding dresses ahead of my big day later this year. I’m happy to say that Sam (my fiance) is all sorted to come out and emigrate to New Zealand and his parents are flying out for the wedding. We’ve also now sorted out a venue for the ceremony Rangi Ruru School chapel with the reception venue at Cana Gardens in Rangiora.
Until next time’
Tom Walsh Shot Putter
12 February 2014
In his latest Road to Glasgow blog for Athletics NZ, Canterbury shot putter Tom Walsh talks about the upcoming ITM, competing against good mate Scott McLaren, looking ahead to World Indoors in Poland and his first attempt at competing in a kilt.
Hope everyone is well and a belated Happy New Year! Since my last Athletics NZ blog many of you will be aware I broke the New Zealand record with 20.61m in Melbourne, and since setting that mark I’ve gone back into training mode to prepare for the World Indoor Championships in Poland – my next big challenge.
I don’t plan to compete again until the ITM in Christchurch before flying out to Europe to take on the world’s best throwers in Sopot – I can’t wait.
The aim of shutting down my competitive season for a couple of months was to regroup and focus once again on my technique, which I felt I was starting to lose a little bit during the pre-Christmas competition phase. It was important I returned to the gym and started hitting those numbers. I’m pleased to say training has gone well and I’ve hit a few PB’s including throwing 19.80m with a 7.5kg shot (Tom’s competition shot is 7.25kg).
Not only that I’ve been working three days a week on the building site putting in the usual physical work, which also does harm to my overall conditioning.
I’ve gained a lot of confidence from my 20.61m and while I feel I’m still a wee bit short of world-class, I believe everything is heading in the right direction for me to break into the elite if I continue to work hard.
My next and only planned competition before the World Indoors in Christchurch on Feb 22 – is a competition with a difference – a Quadrathlon involving hammer, discus, shot and a 50m sprint. My father, Peter, and I dreamed up this idea about three of four years ago and in the past the event took place in my home city of Timaru. We thought the event would be a great idea to get all the throwers together in an effort to push them and encourage them and so far it has proved a success.
It is also a bit of fun, too with the 50m sprint providing a grand finale to the meeting and Scotty “The Clown” McLaren coming down to compete and provide the entertainment.
How will I go in the 50m sprint? Well, last year I ran 6.66 – the devil’s number - and finished fourth or fifth, not bad going for a guy who weighs 125kg. Let’s just say, I’m definitely hoping to win the shot.
Soon afterwards I’ll be flying out to Switzerland to spend some time training with Valerie Adams at her training base in Biel. I’m hoping there’s not too much snow up there before I move on to Sopot in Poland for the biggest competition of my career so far.
To be up against the world’s top throwers there will be a big test for me, but after my throws at the end of last year I do feel like I belong in that company. I’ve never competed indoors before – and the landing area is a wee bit smaller and the crowd a little closer to you than at an outdoor meet. Other than that it is just a typical shot put competition like any other.
My aim is to the throw 20m in qualifying and make the final at the World Indoors...then the competition is well and truly on and we'll see what happens.
Finally, for those of you that read my Christmas blog will be aware, I was heading out to Australia for a little over a week to watch The Ashes Test in Melbourne, which was a fantastic spectacle. I also did fit in some good training out there and managed to squeeze in a competition with a difference - the Maryborough Highland Games.
Yes, I went for the full Scottish experience competing in a full kilt – which gave me a feeling a lot freer than when I wear shorts. It was quite refreshing!
We competed in a range of events, including the 25kg weights throw and the Atlas Stones. - in which competitors try and place five stones of different weights on a podium. The event was a lot of fun and I finished third behind Damo (Damien Birkenhead Australian shot putter) and Scotty (Scotty Martin, coach to Birkenhead) which I pretty pleased with.
I really enjoyed the Atlas Stones. I’m not a bad cleaner in the gym and as the skill is similar - albeit with slightly different shaped objects – so this was one event that went well.
As some of you may know I’m a huge cricket fan and I can’t pass my latest blog by without mentioning the excellent form of The Black Caps. I’ve been glued to my TV screen – when I can – enjoying their top performances and I was really pleased Hamish Bennett – who went to my old school - was given his chance in the recent ODI series to play after suffering a severe back injury.
Until next time
Scott McLaren Decathlete
5 February 2014
This week Scott writes about frustration, training on the Alter-G, on the bike, in the gym and the pool, the ITM and good mate Tom Walsh's form.
Since my last blog I’ve, frustratingly, got to report I have not made a huge amount of progress in my training. I’m still feeling pain in my foot and with the clock now ticking - it is now less than 170 days to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games - I’m, naturally, a little anxious.
Every morning at the moment is the same. I wake up flex my foot and check for pain in my heel. Yes, that same heel I had surgery on back in September. The pain I feel in my foot can differ massively from one day to the next. Some mornings I am pain-free on other day’s I’ll be limping.
The pain is restricting how I can train. Doctors said I would be back fully running after three months post-surgery. Four months have now passed. My running is limited largely to work on the alter-g treadmill up at the Millennium Institute – which allows me to run with reduced weight resistance.
Fortunately, doctors have told me there is nothing mechanically wrong. It may simply be that the nerve endings are causing the pain or a little bit of bone needs to fully heal. It can play with your head because each day is a little closer to Glasgow.
Having said all that there is no need to panic. I still have time. My coach Elena says as long as I'm back in spikes by April I will be fine for Glasgow
I've also put in plenty of general fitness work in the gym, one the bike and in the pool. At some point – should I secure a nomination for the Glasgow Games - I will have to prove my fitness. To do that I might have to compete at Aussie nationals in early April or at some other meets in New Zealand. As you can imagine, having to prove fitness brings with it a certain nervousness and pressure.
I have to think positively. My next scheduled competition is the ITM in Christchurch on February 22, where I plan to enter the throws quadrathlon of hammer, shot, discus and 50m sprint.
I competed in the same event in Timaru last year in an event organised by Tom Walsh, the NZ shot put record holder and his dad. It is based on multi events scoring and with a little bit of money available it is a fun event to compete in. Before you ask, my hammer is also not too bad. I've thrown 44m in the past and as a kid growing up Taieri. I remember competing in all the different events including everything from hammer to the 3000m. I know my ‘heel, toe.’
The 50m sprint is a great way to end the competition. Last year Richard Callister (a thrower) talked a good game, but it just didn't happen and I managed to beat him. You see, most of these throwers are good over the first 5m and then have a few mobility issues.
On the subject of Tom he has definitely been the outstanding performer of the summer season so far in New Zealand. A lot of people are hoping and wanting to get qualification marks for the Commonwealth Games but many have yet to achieve it. What Tom has done has been hugely impressive.
Away from the track and work as strength and conditioning coach at St Kentigern's has been very busy. I'm getting into school early to work with the athletes there on their S and C in a range of sports. All I can say is some of the boys are shifting a lot of weight and moving very fast.
At the moment my world has all been about work and training and doing everything I can make sure I am 100 per cent for Glasgow. I cannot have any excuses. I know to win a medal there it will probably take a score of around 8000 pts. It will be very tough. Even playing golf at the moment I'll go around on a golf cart to avoid being on my feet for too long. I want to make sure I’m doing everything possible to be fit and ready to go for Glasgow.
Until next time
Joseph Millar Sprints
22 January 2014
The latest athlete in our blog series is two times New Zealand 100m & 200m champion Joseph Millar, who talks about a busy race schedule, running pain free, New Year's Eve at Mt Maunganui and a good treble at the Tauranga Twilight meet the next day.
I’m writing by latest blog from a windy Wellington in preparation for Friday’s Capital Classic. We are now starting to enter the heart of the summer season and I’m currently in a busy spell of racing aiming to perform to a peak and chase Commonwealth Games standards.
On Monday night I was up in Wanganui for the Cooks Classic where I won the 100m in 10.60 and the 200m in 21.28. It was a mixed night for me. I was pleased with my 200m time, although slightly appalled by my 100m time as I have been running 10.4s so far this season. The blocks did slip at the start of the race, but even so that was no excuse to run such a time.
I’ve actually had one or two issues recently with my starting blocks and at the Potts Classic in Hastings earlier this month my blocks slipped there too. I ran a time of 21.13 in the 200m and even when a person stands on the blocks in an effort to keep them stable, I bent the metal on the frame when I pushed out of the blocks so it is something I hope to address.
It has been some time since my last blog and I’m delighted to say the Compartment Syndrome injury I hinted that I may have in my previous blog has now calmed down. I’ve not had pain for weeks. It was compartment-like injury, but working with the physio and using some other muscles in my exercises seemed to cure the problem.
I also enjoyed a great new year in Papamoa as quite a few of my fellow members of the New Zealand 4x100m relays squad decided to stay with me for New Year’s Eve – the night before the Tauranga Twlight meet. Andy Kruy, Zac Topping and Ryan Howe all stayed with me and Cameron French and Dalton Coppins were also up there for the meet.
We took the opportunity to come together for some relay practise – more of which later – and I carried out my first speed sessions of the year in a competitive environment which was very useful.
We spent New Year’s Eve at Mariah Ririnui's house for dinner and then went on to Mt Maunganui to watch the fireworks. The next day we had a lie in and competed in the Tauranga Twlight meeting. I ran the 100m, 200m and 400m and was pleased with my 400m time of 47.64, which was just outside my PB of 47.49. It felt easy and it is a reflection of my improved endurance this year.
There is little doubt I am a stronger athlete this year. The 200m have also been going well and although I have yet to dip below 21 seconds this year – unlike this time last year - my average times and consistency for the 200m have been much better.
The Wellington meeting will be a true gauge for where I’m at. It is the biggest meeting of the season so far and it will attract the biggest crowds and the competitive standard is higher. I plan to run the 100m and 200m and it would be great to run below 10.4 and 21 seconds for the two events.
We are also having a crack at achieving the Commonwealth Games qualification mark of 39.50 for the 4x100m which will be very exciting. For many of the squad qualifying for the relay is their best hope of making it to Glasgow and we have really committed to the programme. I think if we don’t get the mark on Friday, we’ll come very close. If not, we’ll then move on to the Porritt Classic in Hamilton next month to have another go. I’ve not doubt in my mind that we can do it.
As for me personally I just have to try hard on achieving those individual spots. I have ran 10.2 before (he achieved a windy 10.21 at the Auckland
Championships last year and the Comm Games B standard in 10.21) so I know what it feels like to run that fast. I think I can do it again. The 200m standard (B standard is 20.60) is going to be a tougher nut to crack but I like a challenge.
My coach Kerry Hill is probably the most excited I’ve seen him. He thinks I’ve got a decent shot at making the Commonwealth Games. I just need to try and make it happen.
Until next time
Julia Ratcliffe Hammer
15 January 2014
The New Zealand hammer record holder talks about a brief break back in NZ for Christmas, heading back to Princeton in the middle of a very cold spell and indoor weight throw competitions.
I’m back again in the USA and not too enthused to report that the temperature here the other day in New Jersey plummeted to -14C. As many of you will know the north east of America has been suffering from some really extreme temperatures, so after enjoying a blast of New Zealand summer over Christmas and New Year the icy conditions here at Princeton have come as a big shock to the system.
Many people have asked me what it is like to be out and about in -14c – and all I can say is it is not too pleasant! To be honest, though, I don’t spend much time out in the cold. We have an indoor throws facility here at Princeton and as I’ve reduced my throwing days from five to four days a week this year, I usually can avoid the worst of the weather. The indoor facility is meant for shot put and weight throw only, but I am making a few renovations so I can throw the hammer there as well.
Before writing about my life back here on campus – where I’m currently preparing for my final exams for the first semester – I’d like to write about my festive season in New Zealand. It was fantastic to be back for the first time in a year. I got plenty of sunshine and enjoyed a great family holiday over Christmas down in Nelson.
We went for a picnic lunch at Rabbit Island on Christmas Day, although during my time down there I did find plenty of time for training. Nelson Athletics were very helpful in letting me use a hammer cage and I even went out for 30 throws or so with my dad on Christmas morning.
For New Year I travelled up to Uretiti near Whangarei and spent a couple of days camping with my sister, Sarah. The beach there was stunning.
I returned to the US on January 4 and my time in New Zealand already seems like a distant memory as I sit here in the cold preparing for exams.
From an athletics perspective, I’ve managed to compete a couple of times recently in indoor weight throw competitions. It is nice to be back competing and the weight throw is always nice because I don’t place myself under any huge expectations.
My first weight competition of the season on December 7 went quite well. I threw 19.52m – just 0.22 short of my New Zealand record and although my last competition at the weekend I registered a best of 18.91m, I beat someone who was expected to beat me and I had a narrow foul in the 19.60m range.
I do plan a couple more weight throw competitions during the indoor campaign before I move on to the hammer, where I hope to make my competitive return in March.
Now we have turned into a new year I can feel the excitement starting to build for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, which is now a little over six months away. My mum, dad and sister plan on attending which is great, but it is important for me to keep a lid on the hype and intensity which that competition will bring.
Last season, as I’ve written before, I peaked too early and it was hard to maintain a strong, focused mental attitude which resulted in me failing to perform to my best. This season I just have to keep my mental attitude nice and calm. I feel that is best approach which will allow me to throw well.
With exams starting shortly it is always an intense period of year, although once they are complete I then have a one-week break between semesters called intersession, which, thankfully, means no work.
Until next time
Angie Smit 800m
8 January 2014
I’m writing my latest blog from a bach at the beautiful Kaiteriteri in Tasman – an idyllic setting – where myself and the family spend every year. The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow are now a little over six months away, which I’m really excited about, but I'm disappointed to report that I’m feeling a little run down lately.
I ran my first race of the season at the Lovelock Classic in Timaru last Saturday and although I won the mile race – which was an honour – I was really disappointed with my time. I was aiming for a time at least ten seconds faster, although I know my health hasn’t been too great lately. As some of you may know, this time last year I got quite a nasty bout of glandular fever, so I have to be quite careful. I don’t think I have anything too serious and I will get a medical verdict soon. I have had some good training sessions following Lovelock, so I’m really hoping to be back in full health soon because the intention is to race in the 800m at the Potts Classic on January 18 and then Cooks, Capital and Porritt Classic races before the ITM, Canterbury Champs and some Aussie races before preparing for the exciting European races ahead.
A lot has happened since my last full blog at the end of October. I only returned to New Zealand from the UK after five-and-half-months overseas on December 1. As readers of the Christmas blog will know my boyfriend, Sam, proposed to me in November and we plan to marry later this year.
The wedding plans have already started, which I’m incredibly excited about and hopefully I can reveal some more information soon.
My entire spell living and training abroad was a fantastic experience. It was wonderful to be given the chance to be exposed to athletes training from different countries. I made lots of friendships and gained a lot of great memories. I even trained a little bit up at Birmingham University – where me fiancé studies – with Hannah England, the 2011 World 1500m silver medallist, which was lovely.
Since returning to New Zealand it has been hard being apart from Sam and I really miss him, but I am so grateful for Skype and I’m counting down the time until we are together again. It is also great to be back home. I've missed some of my old training routes, it is nice to return to better weather and most of all it is great to have my coach, Maria, by my side to quickly pick up on elements I can work at in training.
It has also been nice to have had a break from studying. I was carrying out my Bachelor of Arts in education degree remotely while living in the UK, but I've now got a spell off until February when I'll return once again to the lecture room at the University of Canterbury.
Now we have entered the New Year I’m starting to think more regularly about the Commonwealth Games, where I hope to get a medal. My mum and dad – Liz and Mike – have bought their tickets for Glasgow, which will be great because it is the first time both of them will be in attendance to watch me compete at an overseas meet.
People have also asked me about New Year’s Resolutions and I have a few. One is I’m trying really hard to be a big more punctual and another is not allowing the stress to get to me. I also hope to try and get to bed a bit earlier, which I’m sure will benefit my running, because I’ve been a bit of a night owl recently.
In the next few days, though, I hope to enjoy what the bach and the setting has to offer. I might go windsurfing and mountain biking, but most of all I’m looking forward to good news from the doctors, so I can feel better and a little more like my old self in training.
I hope all the athletes and coaches have an amazing 2014 season!
Road to Glasgow – Christmas Day Special
19 December 2013
Christmas Day is a time of rest and relaxation for many, but for our five bloggers training will not be too far from their thoughts. We speak to Scott McLaren, Tom Walsh, Joseph Millar, Angie Smit and Julia Ratcliffe about how they will all spend December 25.
Scott McLaren – Decathlete
“For the first time in about ten years I’ll be spending Christmas Day with my dad down in Dunedin. Past Christmas Day’s up here in Auckland I’d often do something like a 5x400m training session with a one minute recovery and then I’d head back home have bacon and eggs and lie on the couch. Christmas Day is normally the one day of the year I often don’t have anything else on, so it is always relaxing. This year I’ll play a bit of golf with my dad at Chisholm Park Golf Club. As for training I’ll probably fit in some hurdles drills and a running session at my old track at the Caledonian Ground in Dunedin.”
Tom Walsh – Shot Put
“I’ll be flying out to Melbourne on Christmas Day with my mum, dad and brother because we have tickets for the Boxing Day cricket Test match between Australia and England. I can’t wait. I’m a huge cricket fan and few years ago I also flew out to Melbourne to watch Australia v Pakistan, although there is nothing like the Ashes. We have tickets for the whole five-day match. I will be keeping up training during this period with Australian thrower, Damien Birkenhead and his coach, Scott Martin. In many ways Christmas Day is just another day for me, apart from the face I’ll be eating and drinking a bit more.”
Joseph Millar – Sprints
“I’ll definitely be training on Christmas Day. I love to train and if I don’t train I feel bad and don’t sleep so well. I don’t yet know what session I’ll be doing, but it will be something to work off that Christmas feed. Last year I went down the track and did 10x200s. As for the rest of the day our family get together and I catch up with cousins that I haven’t seen for a long time. My family live down by the beach in Papamoa, which is always a perfect place for a Christmas Day barbecue. “
Angie Smit – Middle-distance
“I’ll get up reasonably early on Christmas morning, exchange the presents and then maybe attend a church service, which is important to me. I’ll then have a nice breakfast and hang out with my immediate family before catching up with cousins. The main part of the day will be dinner, which I’ll spend in Kaiapoi at my sister (Rachel) and husband’s house. Of course, one of my favourite things to do is to go for a run so I’ll probably go out for a half an hour to an hour run. I normally run with a training partner, at Woodend beach but she might not be able to make it this year, so I might have to rope in one of my brother’s to come out with me. The only shame is my fiancé, Sam, won’t be in New Zealand to share it with me. Sam will be back in England, so we’ll have to have a Skype Christmas. Just to let you know Sam proposed to me last month, I said, yes, and we plan to marry late next year!”
Julia Ratcliffe – Hammer
“Christmas for me this year is going to be a little different because we’ll spend it down in Nelson. I’m from Hamilton, but my mum, dad and I will be down there for a week over Christmas because my sister, Sarah, is doing an outward bound training course there. As a family we normally have a nice brunch. My sister is very much into the outdoors and going on missions and adventures, so I’m sure she’ll have something organised. There are so many bays to explore and we might even pack a picnic. As for training, I’ll use the hammer circle at the local track in Nelson, so I won’t be missing any sessions. I’m not sure yet if I’ll be training on Christmas Day. I can do a double session the previous day, which means if I do that I don’t have to train the following day. Anyway, if I’ve eaten too much on Christmas Day I might feel too ill to train!
Merry Christmas everyone!
Scott McLaren Decathlete
11 December 2013
This week Scott McLaren talks about the excitement of post-surgery competition, how the Commonwealth Games hype is slowly starting to build, pillow management and how long it takes to eat a one-metre pizza.
I'm now nine weeks post-op and I'm pleased to write that my recovery is going well and the weekend before last I even returned to competition at the 60th Jubilee North Harbour Bays event.
It was a last minute decision to compete, but as I had a throws sessions that morning up at the AUT Millennium and as it went well, we decided there would be no harm in competing up at the track there later that day in shot and discus.
The competition went surprisingly well. In the shot I threw 14.04m and I hurled the discus out to 43.54m – these were only around 0.20cm off what I threw at national multis earlier this year when I set a decathlon PB, so I have to be happy. It is also nice to remind the selectors that even though I've been out with surgery I'm still around and competing.
Besides throwing, I've also recently started running again and last week had my first track session post surgery with a 6x100m. I still can't put on spikes because of the swelling in my heel, but it was a nice feeling to be back running again after five months out. Mind, I took the first 100m a little bit tentatively and it took 24 seconds! Thankfully, each 100m got a little quicker and the last one of the six I completed in 12 seconds. I was a bit sore the next day, but most importantly I endured no pain at the time, which is positive.
If I manage to get through the next couple of weeks then my coach, Elena (Vinogradova) plans to step up my running training which is an exciting thought for the Christmas and New Year period.
Yet although my throws are progressing nicely and I'm running once more, my jumps training will be some way behind. I don't expect to start high jump until March/April at the earliest because my injured leg (Scott has surgery on his left heel) is on my take-off leg for high jump. We switched take-off legs for the long jump last year, so I hope to start training again for that discipline a little earlier.
As for my next competition, I don't imagine that will happen until the new year. I just hope to continue to make progress in my training and then take a look at more competitions a little further down the line.
Obviously, the main goal on the horizon is the Commonwealth Games and in the past few weeks I've had a few exciting reminders that the event is getting a little closer. I went along to a Commonwealth Games 'measuring up day' in Auckland to get sized up for kit and clothing. Although I have not been selected yet for Glasgow the NZOC like to get an idea of measurements for possible contenders just as to avoid one almighty scramble ahead of the Games. We also had a few Sky Sports interviews to follow afterwards, so interest is starting to ramp up.
I also received an email from the NZOC that the ANZ are very kindly offering two tickets to every selected athlete for every session that they compete in. Should I win selection this means my dad, Alastair, can attend. He's over in Europe at the time of year anyway, so it works out well. My sister won't be too happy, but I'm giving the other tickets to a friend of mine who works as a pilot for Air New Zealand. He has offered me mate's rates for a long time on flights and I feel as if I owe him one.
At home I've been on my own for a while because Anita (Punt), my girlfriend, has been playing hockey for the Black Sticks out in Argentina. I promise the house is not too messy but the pillows have now gone from the bed. What is it about women's infatuation with pillows? We have about seven on the bed. She texted me from Argentina to say, I bet all the pillows have gone from the bed?' And, I replied to say, 'too right.'
The table tennis table has also been set up in my Man Cave and I can proudly say that I'm still unbeaten in games up to 21 points.
Finally, a blog of mine rarely passes by without a mention of my old mate, Tom Walsh, the shot putter. Reading his blog last week you'll know about the challenge I've set him and Tom is in great form after his 20.45m national record in Melbourne last weekend. Reading a past blog you'll also be aware of his prodigious eating skills and once again he proved the champion in this area in a pizza eating competition we had a while ago. The pizza is one metre in diameter and while it took me only 20minutes to eat the first six slices, it then took me a further 21mins to get through the last two! Tom did struggle but managed to eat the whole pizza in 24 minutes.
Until next time
Tom Walsh Shot Put
4 December 2013
In his latest Road to Glasgow blog for Athletics NZ, Canterbury shot putter Tom Walsh talks about closing in on the New Zealand record, plans for the rest of the season and wagers with Scott McLaren.
Hi everyone, I’m still a little shocked but also really stoked to write that on Saturday I set a new personal best of 20.30m at the Rawhiti Domain in Christchurch. Last year, as followers of my fortunes will know, I missed out on World Championships B standard by just 0.01 and I was gutted not to compete in Moscow.
Saturday’s meeting down in Canterbury was a fairly low-key affair, but the pressure was off and I managed to put together the best series of my career so far. The funny thing was that the 20.30m throw did not feel that great. When an official told me the distance – I didn’t really believe him and I had to ask him again!
In some ways I still can’t believe the distance and I’m still at a bit of a loss to explain why? Training has been a big hit and miss, but on the days when I have thrown well I have achieved distance of around 20.30m, so I shouldn’t be so surprised.
What is also encouraging it that technically there is still a lot more come and I’m also not that fresh at the moment because I’m still working full-time on the building site. Typically, in the past, when I have stopped working to focus solely on training I have improved by around a metre. I’m not saying I can do that again, but it does bode well for the period leading into Glasgow.
The 20.30m throw – which came in the third round – is much more than a PB to me. It is also a B standard (19.75m) for the Commonwealth Games and also a performance standard for the World Indoor Championships which take place next March in Poland. In short, quite a bit of the pressure has been removed and that allows me to pick and choose my competitions a little bit more.
The national record of 20.38m (held by Jacko Gill) is also within range. I’ve no idea what Jacko’s plans are because he is capable of putting half a metre on the record – but maybe before he throws again it would be nice to think I could have the New Zealand record.
On Wednesday I plan to fly to Melbourne for a week when I’ll be staying at the home of a friend of mine, Dale Stevenson, the Aussie shot putter, and I’ll also be competing at the Zatopek Classic on Sunday. I’d be happy with a throw in the low 20s, although I know if I can catch one I can go a lot further.
After Zatopek I plan to return to New Zealand and focus on training for the next couple of months. I see more value on working on some technical changes with my throwing – which entails more lift in the circle – than competing more.
My next planned competition after Zatopek isn’t until the ITM meet in Christchurch in February before I hope to compete at the World Indoor Championships in Poland.
I’m really looking forward to competing in Sopot at a big indoor European meeting. I’ve heard the atmosphere at these meets is great. In fact, I’m sure the 20.30m throw will present plenty of opportunities for me.
It has also created a bet with my old sparring partner, Scott McLaren. As you may have seen from our previous blogs we like a bit of banter between the two of us and he said he would shave my eyebrow if I didn’t break the New Zealand record by the New Zealand Track and Field Championships (in March). As I only plan a couple of competitions before then I said, ‘okay, how about we make the figure 20.60m but I have until the Commonwealth Games to achieve it?’ My penalty for not achieving the distance, and I’m aware I’ve not been selected yet, is one shaved eyebrow, a bowl hair cut while I’ll also have to wear a pair of tights in Glasgow. I’ve never worn tights before, I’m more of a shorts man so I’m not lacking in motivation to throw 20.60m.
Until next time
Joseph Millar Sprints
20 November 2013
The latest athlete in our blog series is two times New Zealand 100m champion Joseph Millar (a 10.32 100m man), who talks about an annoying injury, the finish of exams for 2013 and looking forward to some time at his local beach, Mt Maunganui.
Since my last blog I have to disappointingly report I've picked up a injury which has hampered my training. The problem has been irritating because I'd enjoyed such a smooth winter's training, but the good news is the injury is being successfully treated and last weekend I made my competitive domestic debut for the season.
Back in the winter I suffered a slight problem with my thigh which meant I had to skip training for a couple of days. Yet about five week's ago I noticed the problem persist to the point where I could sprint comfortably some days, but on others I couldn't complete the warm up because I was suffering excruciating pain on my thigh bone.
The best guess is at this stage is the problem is compartment syndrome. My understanding of the injury is that the sheath around the muscle becomes too tight, restricting the flow of blood into the muscles leading them to be starved of oxygen. I've been treated by the Athletics NZ physio down in Tauranga, Fiona Gutschlag. I'm receiving regular massage and also needles have been used to ease the problem.
Around ten to 12 needles are pierced through the skin and muscle straight into the thigh bone. When the needles triggers the right spot on the bone, it can send a big shock down my leg. To be honest, I try not to think too much about the pain and just focus on the fact I'd rather suffer a little bit of pain in the short-term than not be able to even walk around without feeling discomfort.
Thankfully, the treatment has gradually alleviated the pain to the extent that last week I was able to complete my first full week's training in five weeks. My coach and I also decided it would be a good idea to compete in Tauranga over 100m and 200m. It would be a chance to gauge where I'm at and as the meeting was on my doorstep I also didn't have to travel.
I was a bit jittery at the start of my 100m, but recovered from a poor start to overhaul my training partner Kodi Harman and take the win in 10.81. I'm not that happy with the time, although apart from the start, I was reasonably happy with how the race went. I managed to catch and pass Kodi at about 70m.
I also won the 200m, although the clock malfunctioned so I have no idea of the time. The race was run into a headwind, but I felt like I executed the race a lot better than the 100m.
As for my next competition, I haven't yet decided where that will be. As I intimated in my last blog, I would like to do some 400s before the end of the year, so I hope to race over one lap in the next couple of weeks in either Tauranga or Auckland. I also fancy another outing in the next fortnight over 100m, so at least I can rectify that bad start I made in my first domestic appearance of the season.
Away from the track, I'm relieved to have finished my final papers for the year in my degree in Sport and Exercise Science. I now have a good long-break until the new year from the studying and I hope that will allow me a little bit of time down at the beach now that the weather is improving.
I love to swim in the waves and jump off rocks from several little islands out at sea. My favourite beach is Mt Maunganui and it makes a pleasant change to be relaxing at a spot where so often I carry out training on the sand.
It is a very different mindset to know I'll be going to the beach to have some fun rather than that familiar feeling of pain that comes with those tough training sessions.
Until next time
Tom Walsh Shot Put
13 November 2013
In the second of his Road to Glasgow blogs for Athletics NZ, Canterbury shot putter Tom Walsh talks about unexpected results in Noumea, training in Melbourne, losing to Damien Birkenhead and building decks for Aussies.
Hi everyone,I’m happy to report that since my last blog the two competitions in New Caledonia went better than expected. I was looking for a distance of around 19.30m – but I managed to throw 19.59m in the first competition and 19.72m in the second – just 0.03 short of the Commonwealth Games standard – and also won both competitions.I’m still in a heavy weight cycle at the moment, so I believe if I can throw that far at the moment, it can only be onwards and upwards for me in the months to come.I then flew on from New Caledonia for a week’s training in Melbourne with the Australian shot putter, Damien Birkenhead and his coach, Scott Martin. (That's them in the pic). The week in Victoria went well and I worked on making a few technical adjustments, which will hopefully impact on the distance I’m throwing very soon. I love Melbourne. I stayed in a city centre hotel and it only took 15 minutes by tram to training at the Victorian Institute of Sport.It is always enjoyable to train with Damo. The training sessions are always competitive and we also like to introduce the odd challenge away from athletics. As shot putters we love our food and we’ve been known to throw in an eating competition. I remember on past trip taking on Damo and New Zealand decathlete Scott McLaren in a 3kg Burrito challenge, totally eight burritos. Damo beat me by seven burritos to six but he was sick in the car park. Meanwhile, Scott could manage only three before giving up.The eating challenge on this latest trip was a little easier – a 1kg burger with 600g of chips and 400g of mixed veg. Damo won the challenge, but more importantly I’m beating him in the shot put circle (Tom defeated Damien in both competitions in New Caledonia) and that’s what counts.I’m currently back training in Christchurch, but I’ll be flying back out to Melbourne for ten days from December 4. I’m hoping to squeeze in two more competitions when I’m out there, the first as part of an Australian throwers’ camp at the VIS and the second at the famous Zatopek meeting on December 8.My next trip to Australia I’ll be staying at the home of Dale Stevenson, a mate of my mine and another Aussie shot putter. It is good to stay at Dale’s as it saves me having to shell out $100 a night on accommodation. Mind, in lieu of rent I have to carry out a bit of DIY on his house, put in a new deck and move a few walls.When out in Australia, I’ll be chasing the World Indoor Championships qualification mark of 20.30m and I feel confident I can achieve it. I’m throwing further in training than I was since coming back from Australia and the technical tweaks are going well.My throws in New Caledonia were a little bit flat and I’m working hard on creating more lift in the circle. I’ve got one more week of heavy lifting before picking up the lighter weights, which should mean I’ll be firing, ready and at 100 per cent out in Australia. Why the World Indoor Championships? Well, I’ve heard a lot from Valerie Adams and some of the Aussie throwers about the event, which next year take place in Sopot, Poland next March.They always say how the World Indoors generates a lot of atmosphere for the throwers because the crowd is so close to the action. It is certainly an event I want to be a part of. It will also give me some vital international experience ahead of the Commonwealth Games next July. Finally, can I also wish Valerie the best of luck ahead of the IAAF Gala in Monaco, where the winner of the World Athlete of the Year will be announced over the weekend. Valerie is on a shortlist of three athletes for the women’s award and although we can’t predict the outcome, I hope she will be rewarded for a great career and an incredible five or six-year period of dominance in her event.
Julia Ratcliffe Hammer
6 November 2013
The New Zealand hammer record holder discusses fall-break, dressing up as a tiger, her quirky training drills and why she has become a fan of classical music.
I’m writing my latest blog during my fall break, relieved the stress of mid-term exams is over and I can finally catch up on some sleep.
Mid-term exams are always really tough to prepare for because unlike finals there is no study week, so you have to keep going to class at the same time. It is hard to keep going and everyone is a little delirious by the time it is all over.
Thankfully, I’ve managed to keep my training going throughout this crazy period. In fact, training has provided a nice distraction from my study demands here at Princeton. I especially like the lifting sessions, when I can rest my brain for an hour and not have to think about too much.
My training is also a little bit different at the moment to in the past. Last year I threw a lot, but that didn’t get me the results that I wanted. This year we’ve introduced some more drills into the programme which will help my technique.
Normally in the circle, I throw with four turns, but I’ve been working on repetitive turning drills of six or seven turns. So much so I can get quite dizzy during training.
For one drill I spin around while holding a folding chair out in front of me to aid my balance. It must look a bit ridiculous spinning around with this chair on a strip of concrete by a side alley on the edge of the training field. Sometimes cars do a U-turn down the alley and I can see the drivers’ peering out of the window wondering what is going on.
Halloween is a big deal here in the US and we had a party to celebrate the occasion. My room-mate loves Disney and dressed up as Buzz Lightyear, whereas I used one of my mum’s leotard’s and went as an Eighties aerobics instructor.
I love a good excuse to dress up. I’ve also got this onepiece Tiger suit which I like to bring out when the big sports games are on here at college. I’ve worn it for a (American) football game and a basketball game. I’m pretty shameless. I like to wear it for the televised games, so I can try and make it on to TV!
I’m studying at a liberal arts college, which means we have to take classes on a big range of subjects. Personally, I think this is a great system for people who are undecided about what they want to major in. I’ve taken classes ranging from French to psychology and this semester I’m taking a classical music class.
Normally, I’m more the kind of girl who listens to the top 40 hits but I’ve really enjoyed the classes. We have listening tests where they play is a one-minute piece and we have to name the composer etc. The professor we have for the class is really awesome and I’ve got quite into Joseph Haydn. Maybe, Haydn should be my play on music when I next compete in the hammer.
I’ve been quite lucky recently in that I’ve had a lot of visitors come and see me out here in Princeton. My mum and dad’s best friends from back home have been out and I’ve also caught up with my next door neighbour from back home in Hamilton, who is on an exchange semester at the University of Virginia. My best friend is also coming out for Thanksgiving, which has all helped me cope from being away from New Zealand since last Christmas.
I’ve found that unlike in my freshman year – when everything here was new and exciting – I’ve missed home a lot more in my second year. I’m flying back on December 13 and can’t wait for my taste of New Zealand again.
Before then, though, I plan to return to competition again in the weight throw. I’m not strong enough to make a massive impact in this event and my main focus is the hammer, but it will nice to return to competitive action again.
I’m also thinking of wearing something a little different for that first competition. I’ve got my hands on some Princeton speedsuits – normally the attire of the men’s sprint team – which will hopefully provide a few laughs.
Angie Smit 800m
30 October 2013
In her second Road to Glasgow blog, we hear from New Zealand 800m runner Angie Smit who talks about study, moving flat, life in Birmingham and heading back to New Zealand for summer.
Since my last blog I’ve packed my bags and moved from Devon in the south west of England – the home county of my boyfriend, Sam – up to the West Midlands to live and train in the city of Birmingham. Sam studies at Birmingham University and I’m really enjoying my time with him living in a flat of eight athletes. We live above a shop – we have a hairdressers and carpet shop below – which is a new experience for me as a Kiwi girl. We also have a dairy next store, a supermarket opposite our flat and I’m only 15 minutes walk from the university so everything is within close proximity. The canals are also nearby, which is another beautiful place to train.
When I first arrived in Birmingham I `had a little bit of a scare because I felt quite run down and my resting heart rate was high. These were similar to the symptoms I felt when I had a bout of glandular fever last year, so it was quite concerning.
I took a few days off training, took a blood test and thankfully the results came back negative. I’ve been studying very hard with my degree recently, and it was perhaps no coincidence that once I’ve handed in the assignments my heart rate dropped. I just have to make sure I monitor my health very carefully, although the good news is I’m now in full training again.
Maria (Hassan), my coach, has introduced a couple of extra sessions into my programme and it is really nice that sometimes the middle-distances runners in the house can go out and virtually complete the same session. We recently all did a version of a 1km repeats together.
In my previous blog I hinted at the possibility of training with Hannah England, the 2011 World 1500m silver medallist. For various reasons we haven’t been able to run together yet, although I did carry out a circuit session with her. I was not so used to doing some of the drills in that session and I was really unco but it was nice to be given opportunity to train alongside her.
I also had a coffee with her and husband (Luke Gunn). Hannah was very modest, a lovely girl and she also very kindly gave me her training programme and she is really keen for us to do more together in future.
I’m also really enjoying the city of Birmingham and I recently visited the city’s new library – which is humongous, the biggest in Europe. I have been studying really hard, so I haven’t had too many opportunities to go out shopping but I have experienced the Bullring (shopping centre) which is massive.
The flat is full of lots of English people with their many different accents, which I love and we are also living with a French athlete, who has run 3:40 for 1500m. One of the guys in the house is really good at accents, even though he hasn’t quite got the Kiwi one right and it sounds more like an Australian!
The house is always a hive to activity and we’re hoping to organise a cultural night soon in which I plan to make a pavlova. The flat is also planning to host a mini Olympics, which will include random sports such as ice skating and darts. I’m not too bad at ice skating, although I’m not as confident that my darts skills will stand up too well.
I have another month living at the flat before returning to New Zealand in early December and I’ll be leaving with mixed emotions. It will be hard to leave Sam, knowing I won’t see him for a few months, but I’m also really looking forward to catching up with family and friends back home.
On the subject of back home, my parents plan to book their flights over to Glasgow for next year’s Commonwealth Games in the next couple of weeks and that is an exciting thought to take with me through the many monthsof training ahead.
Until next time
Scott McLaren Decathlete
23 October 2013
In his second Road to Glasgow blog for Athletics NZ, Auckland decathlete Scott McLaren talks about his post surgery recovery, shopping, pushing his girlfriend off a bridge and Tom Walsh's style.
For those of you that read my previous blog, you will be aware I was all set for surgery on my heel. Well, the good news is the surgery was a success and three weeks on from date at the Auckland Surgical Centre, the heel is progressing nicely and I’m back light training again on the long road to Glasgow.
The surgeons scraped bone from the heel to remove the bursar but the tendon was largely unaffected. It was quite funny, Val (Adams) also had surgery on her knee and ankle on the same day and at the same surgery that I did and she saw me go into the operating theatre with my hairnet and robe on, which was a bit embarrassing.
For the first seven days post-surgery I was going a little stir crazy as I had a cast on my leg and I was confined to the house. I promise I used the time productively and I’m proud to say I did six months worth of planning for all the teams – rugby, football, netball and tennis – that I work with as strength conditioning coach at St Kentigern’s College (in Auckland).
I was lucky in that my girlfriend, Anita Punt (the Black Sticks hockey player) was very supportive in my recovery. She made the dinner every night and even made sure I showered. Mind, I might have pushed it a little bit far when I started to use a gladwrap tube (pictured) to holler through, when I needed some food. I called it my Anita hollerer!
Once I did get out of the house I made it to a couple of sales and bought a couple of new Nixon watches. I have a bit of addiction to new watches, sunglasses and shoes. At the moment I have 24 pairs of casual shoes. I think I might be one of the few men out there who might own more shoes than their partner.
Anita also celebrated her 26th birthday earlier this month and I took her to Queenstown on a short break as her present. We both went on the Shotover Jet and I also pushed her off a bridge. I should clarify that she was attached to a bungee cord around her ankles at the time. When we paid for Anita to have her first bungee experience, the guy taking the money said, ‘are you not having a go, too?’ I replied, ‘I’ve just had major surgery, mate’ – not that there’s any way you’d get me jumping off a bridge with a rubber band tied around my legs. I have to say that Anita loved it and now there’s a lot of banter that she’s done a bungee jump and I haven’t.
The cast has now gone and last week I started exercising again by going on the static bikes twice a day. I’ve also been doing some upper body weights and stretching. It is too early to tell when I’ll be running again – although I’ll know more after my next date with the doctor in the next couple of weeks.
I’m also impressed with the effort my fellow Athletics NZ blogger, Tom Walsh, made after having his photo taken for his Athletics NZ blog – because I noticed he was wearing his Canterbury singlet. He normally only ever wears a cotton singlet and Highlanders rugby shorts, he’s the most atrocious dresser. Perhaps, Tom's changing, though. We both recently went out for dinner to celebrate Marshall Hall’s (the four-time New Zealand discus champion) birthday at The Viaduct in Auckland and we were all very impressed Tom put on some jeans rather than just wearing shorts and a pair of jandals.
Until next time
Joseph Millar Sprints
16 October 2013
The latest athlete in our blogger series is top New Zealand sprinter Joseph Millar (a 10.32 100m man), who talks early season competition, why he believes he is in the form of his life and his 21st birthday party.
The Commonwealth Games may still be nine months away but I’ve already competed in my first two races of the domestic season in New Caledonia last week.
There I ran 10.59 for the 100m in Kone and followed that up with a 10.78 100m time into a headwind in Noumea, finishing runner-up to Fijian sprinter Ratu Banuve Tabakaucoro on both occasions. On the face of it these may not seem mindblowing times but this was my first competitive appearance since the Australian Championships back in April and I’ve just come off the back of my heaviest part of my winter training. I was encouraged by the two runs. It was 0.20 quicker than I was running at the same time last year, so if I can take off a similar chunk of time towards the end of the season that can put me within New Zealand record range. I was looking for about 10.60, so to sneak under that time was also encouraging.
The New Caledonia meets are well organised and gave me a nice break from training in a relaxed environment. It was nice to return to competition because I've been training non-stop since May and although all the signs suggest my speed endurance and overall strength are better than ever it is always reassuring to back that up in competition.
I'm completing 5x300m sessions in much better order than in the past while my strength in the gym has basically doubled. On a single stiff legged deadlift I’m now pushing three sets of five reps each at 100kg. Last year I was doing about half that amount of weight, so I’m seeing the improvements coming not just month on month but week to week or at least every couple of weeks.
Training under Kerry Hill my coach since January has been a real plus. He has lots of experience of guiding top sprinters and it real helps that I’m in the same training group as New Zealand’s second quickest 100m runner Kodi Harman (he posted a national junior 100m record of 10.42 last year). We are very competitive as a group and backing off in training never enters our heads. Even if the coach tells us to go through 200m in a certain time we will push a little harder and because we are in a more competitive environment we don’t feel the pain as much.
We spend some time training at the track at Tauranga, but sometimes train on the beach at Mt Maunganui. I’m the fastest 100m sprinter in the squad but Kodi is a much better beach sprinter. He manages to float across the sand and I often have to play second fiddle to him on the beach sessions.
I always laugh that a beach is a place where most people come to chill out and relax, but here we are training hard and going through hell!
After my brief competitive break, it is back to training and for the final part of the year I’ll be focusing on the 400m. Don’t get me wrong, my main priority remains the 100m and 200m but I hope to use the 400m to help build my strength endurance. Earlier this year at the New Year’s Day meeting in Tauranga I ran a PB of 47.49 and I will use that as the benchmark for where I’m at for this season. I’d like to think I can run under 47 seconds for the distance and maybe even in the 46 second mid-range.
To be honest, although the Commonwealth Games is the main aim I haven’t spent too much time thinking about Glasgow. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I'm just trying to take things one step at a time.
Away from the track and last month on September 24th I marked a big milestone by celebrating my 21st birthday. We had a big party around my place with family and friends and it was really cool to see so many people who have supported me and believe in me present. The Commonwealth Games was a big topic of conversation. My best friend, Paul, spoke about me at the party to all the guests and described me as the 'successful one' of our group of friends, which was very humbling. He also spoke about how I was a bit mischievous as a youngster and once threw a ball which shattered a stained glass window at the school chapel. I have to say in mitigation I didn’t aim for the window. The bouncy ball I threw hit the ground, took a hard right and struck the window. It seemed to shake for ten seconds before the glass shattered – I thought I’d got away with it. The funny thing was that the guy who ended up replacing the glass, I invited to my party. He is, of course, a window repairman, although neither of us made the connection until Paul told the story.
Tom Walsh Shot Put
9 October 2013
In the first of his Road to Glasgow blogs for Athletics NZ, Canterbury shot putter Tom Walsh talks about his first European campaign, mosquitoes in Noumea and an upcoming training stint in Melbourne.
Welcome to my first Athletics NZ blog. A few of you may be surprised to hear my competitive season is set to start this week in the slightly unusual setting of New Caledonia. I’m set to compete in the capital of Noumea on Thursday and then up north in Kone on Saturday.
I’ve been back training now for about two-and-a-half months after ending my season in mid-July and these two competitions will be a useful gauge of where I’m at. I’ve actually competed at those two meetings for the past couple of years and I always enjoy them. They are quite low-key, but the organiser does a great job in sorting out accommodation and with $600 (US) available for winning each meeting and bonuses for throwing over 18m I can earn some decent money.
I don’t expect to be anywhere near my best form at this time of year. I’ve just come off a heavy strength block in training, so I’ll probably be about a metre to a metre and a half down on where I would expect to be later in the season. If I could throw around 19m here in New Caledonia that would be a good indicator I can throw around 20.50m in March. My main rival, though, might be the mosquitoes. From past experience the mozzies come out to play at about 6pm at the Kone meeting, so I’ll have to make sure I pack the mozzie spray for that one.
After New Caledonia, I’ll then fly on to Melbourne for a week’s training with Australia thrower Damien Birkenhead. Damien will be one of my rivals at the Commonwealth Games, and I try to hook up with him two or three times a year. I’ll also work with his coach, Scott Martin, the Oceania shot put record holder, who is happy to help me in any way I can, which is great.
New Caledonia and Melbourne are obviously my main goals in the short-term, but I can’t look forward without at least taking a look back to the 2013 international season. As many of you are aware, I missed the B standard for the World Championships in Moscow by just 0.01cm (with 20.09m in Nottwil, Switzerland). I was obviously extremely gutted to miss out. I also threw 20.07m (in Ried, Austria in June) and I didn’t think it would be possible to get that close again without achieving the standard!
Physically I was in shape. I’d throw 20.30m and 20.40m regularly in training, it just didn’t quite happen for me. What made it slightly worse was the standard of the men’s shot in Moscow wasn’t that great. A distance of 19.76m was good enough to make the final, a distance I’m more than capable of making, yet I have to take the positives of the 2013 international season and a lot of doors have opened for me.
I spent a chunk of time training with Valerie Adams in Switzerland and it went extremely well. We got on very well and I enjoyed quite a lot of good natured banter between the two of us. Valerie said to me after I threw 20.09 ‘why the hell, didn’t you throw 20.10?’ We also had a competition in which I threw the glide technique (Tom is a rotational thrower) with my normal weight of shot and Valerie the rotational technique (she normally throws with the glide technique) with her normal weight shot with the loser shouting dinner that night.
I was leading for the first two rounds but somehow, Valerie, even with the most disgusting of rotational techniques, managed to launch one out there to take the competition. I threw 16m something and Val managed 17.40m-ish. Hopefully, I will get the chance to train with Val next year.
While in Europe I also met a US guy shot putter called Joe Kovacs – a 21.08m thrower – who has invited me over to the US to train with him. He spends some time training with Ryan Whiting, the World Championships silver medallist in shot, so that will be another exciting opportunity.
Training has gone well over the past couple of months. I’m throwing an overweight shot of 7.5kg (we normally throw with a 7.26kg) shot to help build me strength and I threw a personal best of 18.70m the other week, which suggests I’m in 19m form with a competition shot.
I’ve also been back working as an apprentice builder for about 30 hours a week. I always say I have two part-time jobs – building and shot training – and it has been nice to get back building again having been travelling and competing around Europe.
Building helps keep me fit and develops what I call my real strength. The guys I work always keep me grounded. They won’t allow me to get carried away and if I get a bit cheeky they’ll gently remind me I missed out on making the World Championship standard by one centimetre.
Julia Ratcliffe Hammer
2 October 2013
In the first of her Road to Glasgow blogs for Athletics NZ, New Zealand hammer record holder Julia Ratcliffe talks about why she believes as a second year Princeton student she is in a much better position to maximise her athletics potential in 2014.
Welcome to my first blog which I’m writing from my room on campus at Princeton University in New Jersey, where I’m studying my second year of an economics degree. I’ve been back in training for about a month or so now where I’m very much focused on next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. My goals are to secure a second B standard qualification and also to throw over 70m this year.
Yet before I look forward, I’d like to look back to my first year at Princeton. When I arrived here I had no idea how it would go. My dad (Dave) was still coaching me and setting my programmes but I had another coach (Brian Mondschein) here at Princeton who was with me every day in practise doing his best to facilitate the programme that dad had set. When I set my previous New Zealand record of 67.00m at the 2012 World Junior Championships I had enjoyed six months of full-time training, but with the study demands at Princeton I knew I wouldn’t have that luxury. So to set the New Zealand record of 68.80m back in April was such a good feeling to know that the hard work – not to mention extreme time management – had paid off.
My performances for the rest of the season then dropped off a little bit. I was extremely disappointed to finish just 11th at the NCAA Championships when I went into the competition ranked second. It is a little hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, but it had been a long season which started back in December (2012) and went through until June. I had to be competition ready all the time and that was quite mentally stressful.
I then went on to compete at the World University Games, where I was up against multiple World Championship throwers, in what was the biggest competition of my life. I managed to attain my first goal, which was to reach the final, where I finished eighth one place above my ranking, although I knew I could have thrown better.
I then took one month’s rest at the end of the season. I spent a week or so at my auntie and uncle’s house in London watching the World Championships in Moscow followed by some time with friends in Poland, the Czech Republic and Croatia before returning to the US.
Going into my second year, I feel much better prepared than I was as fresher. I now know the lay of the land and I feel I can get a really head start from my pre-season training. I have a better understanding with my coach (in Princeton), too. It must have been a tough situation for him knowing he would be coaching me but having to go along with another programme. I was quite wary at first because I didn’t want to offend him but it’s worked really well and he’s really facilitated me.
This year we are working on changing my technique and trying to improve my speed. Last season I was stronger than I’d ever been but I could not translate that into a controlled throw. I’m working on turning my feet faster in the circle and using a slightly lighter hammer in training to help this.
I still chat to my dad about once a week. I get coach to film me and send home videos of me throwing. There’s a lot of communication going on and I’m looking forward to opening my competitive season on December 7 with a weight throw competition.
Between the twin demands of training and study there is not a lot of time for other interests. I don’t have a car, so I rarely leave campus, but I’ve really got into watching sport around the university. We have some amazing facilities here at Princeton and I’ve really got into watching tennis. A friend of mine, Dan Davies, who is also a fellow Kiwi and fourth year student here plays on the tennis team and it is great to be able to not only watch the game but support your friends.
In fact, there are around a dozen Kiwis here at Princeton and we talk about setting up a Kiwi club because the university helps fund all the clubs. We joke about using the money to import Whittaker’s chocolate and lots of other Kiwi food. In all seriousness, it is great to have some Kiwis on campus. We are all good friends and it helps give me my New Zealand fix while living out here in the US.
Angie Smit 800m
26 September 2013
In the second of our Road to Glasgow blog series, we hear from New Zealand 800m runner Angie Smit who talks about life after Moscow, settling into life in the UK, looking ahead to summer in New Zealand, and further ahead to Glasgow 2014.
Since the Moscow World Championships I’ve been based in England with my boyfriend Sam, so a very long way from home. The Commonwealth Games may still seem a long way in the future – around 300 days – but I’m already visualising in my mind how the race will unravel. I have a picture in my head of the race and the atmosphere in the massive stadium. I have an idea of some of the English girls and the Canadian girls I’ll be up against. I’m imagining what it is like to wear the Fern again and that feeling of pushing down the home straight to hopefully win a medal. It won’t be easy, of course, but that is the long-term goal. That is what is driving me in training.
I was disappointed not to make it through my heat at the World Championships. To finish 17th just one place from a semi-final spot was hard to take, but I need to take the positives out of season in which I ran my fastest ever time (2:00.03 to finish fourth at the World University Games) and also made my World Championships debut.
To be a part of the Moscow Championships was an amazing experience. It was so incredible to be there. It was really inspiring so see some of the amazing athletes walking around like Nick Symmonds (the World 800m silver medallist from the USA) and Abeba Aregawi (Sweden’s World 1500m champion). I was in the stadium to watch Mo Farah win, which was amazing, and to see Zoe Buckman (the Australian who reached the women’s 1500m final) do so well was also great.
My birthday was the day after my 800m heat, so it was a funny day in which I was disappointed but also had a lot to be happy about. In the main food hall that day after we got back from watching the competition, Nick Willis started singing happy birthday to me and suddenly 60 people – all top athletes – were singing happy birthday, including Aregawi, which was really special.
My coach (Maria Hassan) and I decided after Moscow to call an end to what had been a long hard season and I flew straight into England to meet my boyfriend. I took a couple of weeks rest, caught up with studies and enjoyed some time travelling around the UK. I went to the Ancient English city of Bath and loved visiting the old Roman baths. It was amazing.
I’ve been based in North Devon near Barnstaple, where Sam lives. The running trails have been excellent and the rolling countryside reminds me of parts of New Zealand – except everything is much older.
I’ve also taken to some elements of the English culture and I really love my cream teas, even if this is something I try out only occasionally because of my training commitments.
People here sometimes get a little confused with my accent. I was presenting some prizes at the North Devon athletics club (Sam’s club) recently and someone asked me what age I started athletics. I said, ten (the E can sound a little bit like the letter I to an English person). The person who asked me couldn’t understand what I was saying. I don’t even think she thought I was saying a number.
On Friday (Sept 27) we are moving from North Devon to move into a flat of eight runners up in Birmingham, in the West Midlands (of England), where Sam studies. I’m really excited about moving up there, even if the girls will be outnumbered six to two by the guys!
It should also present some really exciting training opportunities and I’ve been in touch with Great Britain’s Hannah England, the 2011 World 1500m silver medallist, about carrying out some training with her. She seems keen for this to work which is very exciting. I’ve always looked up to her, so to be able to train with her will be amazing.
I plan to go back to New Zealand later this year and I intend to start running again at the Lovelock Classic in Timaru on January 4. I hope to compete in quite a few domestic races and then on to Australia in the early stages of my race preparation in the countdown to Glasgow.
Finally, can I just say 2013 is a very interesting year for the family. My sister, Rachel, is due to have a baby in February and my brother, Jonathan, is due to be married next April. It is very exciting times in the Smit family at the moment.
Until next time’
In the start of our Road to Glasgow blog series, we hear from New Zealand decathlete Scott McLaren who talks operations, TV presenting and just why his long jump PB currently sits at 9.10m.
Scott McLaren Decathlete
18 September 2013
“I start my first blog by telling you that next week I face an operation to remove a piece of bone from the heel. It may sound like a depressing note to kick things off with, but it should hopefully fix a problem I’ve had for some time and I hope to be back running within three or four weeks to start my preparation for the Commonwealth Games.
In my last competition back in Ulm, Germany in May I completed the first day of the decathlon but quit at the beginning of the second day because I simply couldn’t walk. We’ve tried anti-inflammatory drugs, cortisone injections and shockwave therapy to try and fix the problem, but in some ways it is a relief that I will be having the operation. I still have ten months to go before the Commonwealth Games and it is nice to have already achieved the performance standard (B standard of 7700pts which he achieved when setting a PB of 7750 to land the national title in February), so I don’t have that pressure to go chasing the standards.
Competition-wise, I’m looking towards the tail end of the domestic season to start competing. I can focus on nationals and then the Aussie nationals before going over to Europe. I’ll then look to maybe compete in one more decathlon – possibly in the UK - because the weather conditions will be similar to what I will face in Glasgow.
A lot of people have asked me about my expectations for Glasgow and what I say is that I’m ranked sixth in the Commonwealth in the decathlon for 2013 and I good target will be a top five finish, although a medal is what I want.
In terms of where my strengths lie, I’ve made real progress in the 100m, 400m and pole vault. Against the top decathletes, my shot and javelin stacks up fairly well, but I think I can make really big gains in the hurdles and discus. For me, it is all about stringing together a good decathlon. My PB’s across all events amount to a score of around 8250pts and I need to be as consistent as possible.
The nature of the injury has caused me to change a few things in my prep. I can’t run, but I’m doing a few things to keep the lungs working and getting stronger on my mobility and on the technical side.
Yet just because I’ve been injured, it is not like I haven’t been busy recently as I’ve been juggling two or three jobs.
I took up a role as strength and conditioning coach at Saint Kentigern’s College at the beginning of the year, where I support all the premier sports teams; rugby, netball, basketball. I’ve followed the fortunes of the rugby team all season and it is a real shame they lost their unbeaten streak of 52 games in the national XV rugby final against Hamilton Boys High last weekend. I’m sure the boys would have preferred to have lost that streak earlier in the season rather than in the final, but I guess that’s sport.
I also carry out a bit of coaching and as some of you might also know I’m keen to get into the media and TV. Yes, I’m a big fan of seeing my face on TV! I was recently asked if I would help present a new monthly Sky Sport show called ‘Feed the Backs’ alongside Sarah Cowley, the 2012 Olympic heptathlete.
TV is something I love doing because it gives me the chance to be a little bit more of an idiot than I already am! I really don’t mind being the silly guy who is the butt of the jokes. I’ve been presenting the Skills Institute, where I wear a white trench coat like a scientist and talk to the guests and the host about how to do the event. I was lucky in that the first test was the high jump, so it was something I should know something about.
I reckon Sarah was more nervous for her taste of TV presenting than she was competing, but she did a fantastic job and really kept thing rolling.
I also recently bought a retro arcade machine which is set up in the lounge – or should that be my ‘man cave’ - at home. I paid $1500 for the machine and it is awesome. I’m rubbish at Mortal Combat and Street Fighter but I love playing 1942 - an old aeroplane game - and Atlanta Olympics. I’ve managed 9.98 for the 100m and 9.10m for the long jump but I’m rubbish at the high jump in that I keep getting the angle wrong and knocking the bar off – just like me in the real decathlon.
Until next time’