Two-time Olympic 1500m medallist Nick Willis is a New Zealand running icon.
Here the 33-year-old takes time out from his busy schedule to answer out Five Minutes With….questions.
What was your first significant win?
It was winning the 800m at the 2000 Pacific Schools Games 800m in Sydney. I had just turned 17 and, although, as reigning New Zealand (age-group) champion, I knew I was one of the best kids in New Zealand, I didn’t know up until this meet how I would fare against the top international athletes. So, to beat the strong Australia and South African athletes made me think there was a future for me in the sport beyond the local scene. I won the race in 1:51.6, but it wasn’t easy. I lost a shoe at 300m and for the rest of the race I ran with a sock on my foot and a spike on the other. As soon as I lost my shoe I ran scared. I thought I might as well go the front and, fortunately, I just held on.
What was your first major setback?
That came at the World University Games 2001 in Beijing. I ran the 800m and performed very poorly (failing to advance beyond the heat). I think I got caught up in the social side of being at a World University Games and went out socialising before my races. The frustration I felt in my performance reminded me, I never wanted to experience that again. It made me think in future, worry about the fun stuff after you have raced.
Best piece of coaching advice?
It is something I learned from being a part of the Wellington running fraternity – make sure you do your long run. So make sure 20 per cent of your weekly mileage is in one run at some stage of the week.
What qualities do think every athlete needs to succeed?
You need to have a certain amount of God-given talent, but you also need patience and you need have a lot of confidence in both your ability and those who are advising you.
What is the most important thing you have learned from your time in the sport?
I would say patience would be the biggest thing. It is important not to rush anything and focus on the process rather than the end result. If you do focus on the process the end result will be better.
What is the best thing about being an athlete?
The experiences and people you meet. There is a camaraderie and a bond between the people we meet and I also like the fact as a professional athlete we get to be our own boss.
What is your hidden talent?
I skateboarded for eight years of my life, so deep down I probably have some skills! From the age of eight to 16 I used to skateboard for four hours a day.
What is your karaoke song?
Any song sung by a female because you can drop an octave and you try and sing any male leads impossible to hit the right notes. If I singing in the shower, I sing Lionel Ritchie, but I would never sing that live!
What would be your last meal?
A bowl of Weetbix with granola and muesli on top with yoghurt and a banana.
What is your greatest indulgence?
It is a daily indulgence - dark chocolate. I’ll eat whatever dark chocolate is in the cupboard, and if not in the cupboards, I’ll sneak into the baking chocolate. It has become a habit of mine.
If you could have three Dinner party guests who would they be and why?
Jesus because he the wisest person and I could ask him every possible question. My mum, who died when I was five years old, and my wife, Sierra.