Above: Nick Willis (leading), Julian Matthews (#5) and Hamish Carson (purple) racing in Swarthmore, USA. Photo by Nick Morfesi
Four New Zealand athletes have been added to the team for Rio in the second and final wave of athletics selections for the 2016 Olympic Games. The announcement today by the New Zealand Olympic Committee and Athletics New Zealand brings the total athletics contingent in the New Zealand Team to 14.
With the addition of two 1500m runners Julian Matthews and Hamish Carson, joining 2008 Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis, a historic milestone has been reached with three men contesting the 1500m for the first time in New Zealand Olympic history.
Despite New Zealand having such a rich tradition in the iconic 1500m track race, Matthews and Carson become just the 15th and 16th male Olympians for New Zealand in the event.
Both have been in excellent form in recent months with Matthews running a personal best 3:36.14 and Carson 3:36.25, also his best ever time. The times rank them seventh and ninth on the New Zealand all-time list.
US-based 28-year-old Matthews, originally from Nelson, has valuable international experience heading into Rio, having made the final of the 1500m at Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014 and finishing 16th at the 2015 Beijing World Championships.
Carson, an ecologist from the Kapiti Coast, will run at his first major international competition. The 27 year old is coached by 93 year old Arch Jelley, who famously guided John Walker to Olympic gold in the 1500m 40 years ago.
Alana Barber has been selected in the 20km Race Walk, an event in which she finished 18th at the 2015 Beijing World Championships, an excellent major event debut performance for the 29-year-old from Auckland.
Barber is now walking faster than ever and set a new NZ record of 1:32:58 in Rome earlier this year. The TV producer’s family is no stranger to this level of competition, with her mother Shirley a finalist in the 800m at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch.
Lucy Oliver (nee Van Dalen) has been selected in the 5000m. The 27-year-old Auckland-based Oliver ran in the 1500m at the 2012 London Olympics, progressing through to the semi-finals, and also raced at Glasgow in the 1500 (14th) and 5000m (13th).
Formerly coached by Alec McNab in Wanganui and then Andy Ronan at Stony Brook University in New York, Oliver is now coached by Adrian Blincoe, himself an Olympian at Beijing and the current New Zealand men’s 5000m record holder.
Barber’s partner Quentin Rew has been added to compete in the 20km Race Walk in addition to his originally selected 50km event. Nikki Hamblin has also been named in an additional event, racing the 5000m as well as the 1500m for which she was selected in May.
The team features five athletes who took part in the last Olympic Games in London and three athletes (Valerie Adams, Willis and Stuart Farquhar) who will be competing at their fourth Olympic Games.
New Zealand Olympic Committee Chief Executive Kereyn Smith offered her congratulations to the athletes named today and noted the depth across the team of 14.
“It’s excellent to have a 14-strong athletics contingent confirmed for Rio. The value stemming from athlete’s heading to the Games with previous games experience balanced with our exciting group of Olympic first timers can’t be underestimated,” said Smith.
“Athletics is a hugely popular sport on the Olympic programme and we have a proud history in the sport. On behalf of New Zealand supporters and the NZOC I’d like to wish our selected athletes for 2016 all the very best in the final weeks leading up to the Games.
Athletics New Zealand Chief Executive Linda Hamersley also passed on her congratulations to the team.
“We’re pleased to congratulate these four additional athletes on selection for the Rio Olympics Games in August. We’re proud of their achievements, which are recognition of their commitment and drive for excellence. We’re going to have our largest team at an Olympics since Atlanta in 1996.
“Our team is an exciting mix of multi-medal winning Olympic and World Champions and new emerging talent selected for their first Games, across a broad spread of event disciplines from shotput to 10,000m,” said Hamersley.
“Their selection is testament to their hard work and dedication and also the commitment and skill of our coaches, and the Athletics New Zealand High Performance Department that knits the athletes, coaches, support services and campaign plans together.
“Since the London Olympics in 2012 we have seen tremendous growth in the depth and breadth of our new athletic talent which we look to continue through to Tokyo and 2024.
“I would also acknowledge the support of High Performance Sport New Zealand that has allowed our athletes to achieve their goal of Olympic selection. We wish them all the very best in Rio!” Hamersley added.
Athletics has a very rich Olympic history with the sport being the major attraction at every modern summer Olympic Games since 1896.
New Zealand has won ten gold and a total of 21 medals in athletics at the Olympic Games since race walker Harry Kerr came home with bronze from the 1908 London Olympic Games.
In more recent times, it is hard to forget Peter Snell’s three Olympic golds in the 800m and 1500m at the 1960 Rome and 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Rio 2016 Olympics Athletics Team
| Valerie Adams
|| Pakuranga Athletic Club
| * Alana Barber
|| 20km Race Walk
|| Race Walking Auckland
| * Hamish Carson
|| Wellington Scottish
| Stuart Farquhar
| Hamilton City Hawks Athletics
| Jacko Gill
|| Shot Put
|| Takapuna Athletic Club
| Nikki Hamblin
|| 1500m, 5000m
|| Cambridge Athletic Club
| Eliza McCartney
|| Pole Vault
|| North Harbour Bays Athletics
| * Julian Matthews
|| Athletics Nelson
| * Lucy Oliver
|| North Harbour Bays Athletics
| Angie Petty
|| University of Canterbury
| Quentin Rew
|| 20km, 50km Race Walks
|| Wellington Harrier Athletic Club
| Zane Robertson
|| Hamilton City Hawks Athletics
| Tom Walsh
|| Shot Put
|| South Canterbury Athletic Club
| Nick Willis
|| Lower Hutt Athletic Club
* Selected 15 July 2016