Valerie Adams in the shot at the London 2012 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
Ten New Zealand athletes have been named in the initial selection for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The team includes a strong mix of experience and young talent with three athletes – shot putter Valerie Adams, 1500m specialist Nick Willis and javelin thrower Stuart Farquhar – all preparing for their fourth Games, while six of the athletes will be making their Olympic debut.
Willis took the silver medal in Beijing in 2008 and was appointed flag bearer for the 2012 Olympics. At 32, he shows no signs of slowing down. Last year he set a national 1500m record and finished sixth in the event at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015. Already in 2016 Willis has set a national indoor mile record and claimed bronze in the 1500m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships Portland 2016.
Having won gold in 2008 and 2012, Adams will be aiming to become the first woman in history to win three successive Olympic titles in the shot put.
Tom Walsh’s shot put victory in Portland last month has put him into medal contention for Rio. Over the past 12 months, Walsh has beaten all the potential medallists at least once and has been one of the most consistent athletes in his event.
The youngest athlete named in the team is pole vaulter Eliza McCartney who, at 19, has gone from strength to strength in recent years. McCartney set a world U20 record in December 2015 and then went on to improve her PB to 4.80m, breaking the Oceanian record and recording the highest ever vault by a teenager.
“Athletics is regarded as one of the core Olympic sports and for these 10 track and field athletes named into the New Zealand team, the opportunity to stamp their mark in Rio is hugely exciting,” said Kereyn Smith, CEO of the New Zealand Olympic Committee.
“New Zealand has a rich history of Olympic achievement in athletics dating right back to Harry Kerr’s race walk bronze in 1908. This is a strong team and they have all worked hard to earn their selection. We look forward to supporting them as they etch their name in the history books.”
There is still potential for the team to be expanded with several athletes having realistic chances of achieving qualifying standards throughout this year. A further selection announcement will take place in July.
New Zealand has won 21 medals, of which 10 are gold, in athletics at the Olympic Games.
Athletics New Zealand for the IAAF
New Zealand team for Rio
1500m: Nick Willis
10,000m: Zane Robertson
Shot put: Jacko Gill, Tom Walsh
Javelin: Stuart Farquhar
50km race walk: Quentin Rew
800m: Angie Petty
1500m: Nikki Hamblin
Pole vault: Eliza McCartney
Shot put: Valerie Adams