Above: Nick Willis winning bronze at the Rio Olympics. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / Getty Images.
On two different continents on Saturday morning (NZ time), two of New Zealand’s Rio Olympic bronze medallists had their final hit-outs for the IAAF World Championships starting in thirteen days.
The situations for Nick Willis and Tom Walsh couldn’t have been more different.
Willis has had a late start to his season and left it to the last opportunity he had to grab a 1500m qualifying mark for the championships.
Willis tweeted on the eve of the Monaco leg of the IAAF Diamond League “I've got 4 rounds of the 1500m at @London2017, first one is tomorrow night at @MeetingHerculis #stillneedmyqualifier #finallyhealthy”.
Running in a stellar field in a very fast paced race, the Michigan-based athlete stayed out of trouble, running conservatively at the back of the race, keeping an eye on what was happening ahead.
With two laps to run, the 34 year old from the Hutt Valley moved up to make sure he stayed in touch to come home with a time under the 3:36.00 standard.
And come home well he did, finishing tenth in the race, just one place behind the Olympic champion Matt Centrowitz, and ahead of defending World Champion Asbel Kiprop of Kenya, but more importantly stopping the clock at 3:34.74.
No matter that the winner of the race, Elijah Manangoi from Kenya ran 3:28.80, the fastest time in the world this year, Willis nailed the time he needed and booked his ticket for London.
“Most satisfying 10th place since qualifying for Athens 2004”, Willis said after the race.
Tom Walsh on the other hand has had his London Ticket booked since February, but put out his biggest throw of the year at a low key meeting in Athens, Georgia close to the US training base where he has been for the last 3 months.
With only four competitors in the field, one of them American Ryan Whiting who competed against Walsh in New Zealand earlier this year, the 25 year old Kiwi World Indoor champion hit 22.04m, his biggest throw of the year and the best since his New Zealand record of 22.21 set in Croatia last year.
The throw moves Walsh up to third in the world this year, behind Americans Ryan Crouser who hasn’t been beaten in his last ten competitions and has thrown over 22 metres in eight of them, and Joe Kovacs.
Ironically, it was the Christchurch builder Walsh who last beat Crouser, at the Zurich Diamond League in September last year.
Walsh is happy with the progress he is making this year with the big throws coming at the right time.
"I'm throwing better than I ever have at this time of year and I'm in the best shape I've been. When I do line things up at the world champs, a few people may be changing their tune about me,” Walsh told stuff.co.nz
before today’s competition.
The Kiwi contingent has started arriving at the team’s pre-World Champs base in Cardiff before they head to London for the championships which start on 4 August.