Report23 Feb 2020

Walsh wins on home soil in Auckland


New Zealand's Tom Walsh in action in the shot put (© Getty Images)

Two-time world indoor champion Tom Walsh delighted the home fans at the Sir Graeme Douglas International, a World Athletics Continental Tour Bronze meeting, in Auckland on Sunday (23).

The world bronze medallist dominated the men’s shot put and won by almost two metres, producing his best throw of the year so far. After opening with 21.04m, he sent the shot out to 21.66m on his second attempt, which remained his best mark of the day.

He followed it with throws of 20.96m, 20.92m and 20.39m, all of which would have been enough to win ahead of compatriot Ryan Ballantyne (19.71m).

While the men’s event went to the form book, there was a surprise in the women’s shot put as Canada’s Sarah Mitton enjoyed the competition of her life.

The World University Games champion added more than half a metre to her PB to win with 18.84m, getting the better of four-time world champion Valerie Adams, who came close to her season’s best with 18.73m.

Canadian record-holder Brittany Crew, Mitton’s training partner, was third with 18.51m, while world U20 champion Maddison-Lee Wesche placed fourth with 17.40m.

Niiya clear winner

One month after breaking the Japanese half marathon record with 1:06:38 in Houston, Hitomi Niiya clocked the fastest 5000m performance of her career to win in Auckland.

The 31-year-old, who finished second over the same distance in Melbourne two weeks ago, was a comfortable winner on Sunday, winning in 15:07.02 to take three seconds off the PB she set at the 2012 Olympic Games. World U20 3000m champion Nozomi Tanaka was second in 15:24.98.

While Niiya’s win was decisive, the men’s 1500m was one of the closest events of the evening.

Two-time Olympic medallist Nick Willis got the better of compatriot Rorey Hunter by the slender margin of 0.04, winning in 3:41.77. 18-year-old Australian Luke Young was third in a PB of 3:43.44.

Strong winds in Auckland led the organisers to move most of the sprint events to the back straight to ensure the wind was on the athletes’ backs. While it helped the sprinters record faster times, most were over the allowable limit of 2.0m/s.

There was added drama in the men’s 100m after Jack Hale was disqualified for a false start. He ran under protest and crossed the line in first place, later claiming that he had been distracted by a noise from the throws sector, but his disqualification stood.

It meant that New Zealand’s leading U20 sprinter Edward Osei-Nketia was declared the winner in a wind-assisted 10.19 (2.2m/s). Rohan Browning, who ran a heavily wind-assisted 10.08 (6.7m/s) in the heats, finished second in 10.23.