Above: Nick Willis finished fifth in his World Championships 1500m heat to qualify for the next round. Photo by Glyn Kirk / Getty Images.
Although feeling sluggish Nick Wills has made it comfortably through to the semi-finals of the 1500m at the IAAF World Championships in London.
Racing in the second of three heats and needing to finish in the first six or the next six fastest times Wills finished fifth in 3:42.75 and 16th out of the 24 who qualified.
“It felt really comfortable, my wife said it’s going to feel rusty the first race, but I said don’t worry I feel amazing. But I really tried to back off from my warm up and not do too much to get excited as the biggest challenge is getting into the race and there’s less than 24 hours before turn around to the semi-final,” said a relaxed Willis.
“All that mattered was getting through using as little possible energy.
“I felt a little sluggish but not tired from working too hard, as much as it is to get out of third gear.
“There weren’t as many guys challenging in the home straight as I thought there might be, so that was fortunate.
“I expected Robby Andrews and Ryan Gregson to come flying by but they didn’t and I was able to jog it in the last 30 metres without having to fight to the line,” said Willis.
The 34 year old is attending his sixth World Championships and although he has won gold at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and a silver in 2008 and a bronze last year in Rio at the Olympic Games but never won a medal at a World Championships. He made the semi-final in 2005, was tenth in 2007, 12th in 2011, reached the semi-final in 2013 and in Beijing in
2015 was sixth.
Working with his coach Ron Warhurst the three times New Zealand champion with a personal best of 3:29.66 in Monaco in 2015 is pleased with his fitness.
“I hoped that it would finally click. I had a couple of indicators at the longer distance work I did but it wasn’t clicking for the faster stuff until about ten days ago when I did a work out that I do before my big races and that was right up there with what I did before Rio and before a couple of my 3:29’s so that indicates things are going well and to execute it in a race is another thing and hopefully I have enough strength to get through the three rounds at 34 years of age. That’s probably the biggest challenge as you age is the recovery time.
“I’ve got my dinner (sesame chicken and rice and pesto pasta) ready to eat on the bus ride home, straight into the bath tub with ice and then massage and hopefully fall asleep before 3am,” he said.
In his debut at a World Athletics Championship Ben Langton Burnell was happy with his throw of 76.46m in the javelin despite not making it through to the final.
Langton Burnell’s best throw came on his first attempt of three, the other throws being 73.47m and 74.46m.
The current New Zealand champion, having taken over the mantle from training partner and mentor Stuart Farquhar has a personal best throw of 82.44m in Hamilton in June before he went on to win the Oceania title in Suva Fiji. The qualifying distance was 83.00m and thirteen achieved this for the final, Johannes Vetter of Germany having the best throw of 91.20m. Langton Burnell was 24th out of 31 in the event.
The 24 year old from Palmerston North, but based in Hamilton, said it was good fun and he had a good time.
“I absolutely loved it - fantastic crowd, fantastic venue it was a lot of fun and I can’t wait for future championships.
“I didn’t quite connect the 76 metre throw how I was wanting to, but it was good to get out and experience that in my first championships.
“The technical model didn’t quite hold and I have things to work on which is good. My left leg wasn’t holding so I was collapsing my block and it was hard to put power into the javelin,” said Langton Burnell.
He is off to the World University Games in two weeks-time and then he’ll aim for the Commonwealth Games.
Athletics New Zealand Correspondent