Angie Petty ran the perfect race in the final of the 800m at the World University Games in the Korean City of Gwangju on Friday evening to win the gold medal and run under two minutes for the first time.
The 23 year old Cantabrian ran a brilliantly paced race and caught the early leader, Jamaica’s Simoya Kadine just five metres from the finish line to take the title and become New Zealand’s first gold medallist at these Games.
Petty recorded an impressive personal best of 1:59.06, almost a second under her previous best of 2:00.03 and closing in on the New Zealand record of 1:58.25 set by Toni Hodgkinson at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
Coached by Athletics NZ High Performance Coach Maria Hassan, Petty (under her maiden name Smit) placed fourth in the 800m at the previous World University Games in Kazan Russia in 2013 and then finished fifth over the same distance at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
The performance ranks Petty seventh in the world for 2015 and provides a big confidence boost heading into the World Championships to be held in Beijing in August.
In other finals, Rosa Flanagan and Cameron French both finished in fifth place. Flanagan, also coached by Hassan, placed fifth in the 3000m steeplechase in 9:55.05. Nineteen year old Flanagan will race at the world championships in the same event, having already been selected.
French, a 23 year old Hamilton athlete finished just outside the medals with a strong performance in the 400m hurdles recording 49.92 for fifth place. He will now wait to see if his NZ record of 49.72, set in March will be fast enough to get an invitation from the IAAF and the nod from the selectors.
The other Kiwi in a final on the third day of track and field action, Javelin thrower Ben Langton-Burnell started promisingly with a 74.39m throw, a metre shy of his best set in the qualifying round, but could not improve with two further attempts and finished in tenth place.
After four events in the seven-event Heptathlon, Veronica Torr from Auckland lies in second position thanks to fourth place performances in the 100m hurdles (13.85) and the high jump (1.71), followed by an outstanding win in the shot put, (14.08) and the ninth fastest time in the 200m (25.77).
In earlier action New Zealand athletes continued their very good form at the championships, with Tori Peeters making the final in the javelin, Nneka Okpala setting the fifth longest distance in triple jump qualifying, Brad Mathas getting an automatic qualifying spot in the 800m to progress to the semifinals and Nikki Hamblin easily making it through to the 1500m final, courtesy of a second placing in her heat.
Ten athletes and two relay teams will be in action at the track and field stadium at the Games on Saturday.