Nick Willis fired up for clash with Mo Farah

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 05:00 06/07/2014
Nick Willis
MAARTEN HOLL/Fairfax NZ

DOUBLE DOWN: Nick Willis will head to Glasgow with his family planning to run two events.

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Nick Willis plunges into the lake beside the family holiday home in the United States, as relaxed as he's ever been and in the form of his life.

Those soothing evening swims will make way for the cauldron of Glasgow's Hampden Park in 22 days' time, when he takes on double Olympic champion Mo Farah in the 5000m on night one of the Commonwealth Games track and field programme.

He intends to back up in the 1500m heats five days later, to chase a repeat of his memorable Melbourne gold in 2006.

At 31, New Zealand's premier track athlete knows how to play it these days. It's been low key this year from his home base in Ann Arbor, clocking up the miles in the northern Michigan forests, running his debut half-marathon last month then jetting to selected European events.

He ran his fastest mile (3min 49.83sec) in Oslo, Norway, on June 12 then six days later broke his idol John Walker's national 3000m record, running 7:36.91 in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

"It was a really nice way to reach some significant milestones in my career that I've been wanting to achieve for almost a decade. It takes a lot of pressure off this season and anything else is a big bonus," he said.

He's learned from past buildups, too. In 2012 he was primed for London and a potential repeat of his 2008 Olympic silver medal. He ran a scorching 1500m at the Diamond League meet in Monaco and by the Olympic final he had nothing left.

"In London I ran my lifetime best in Monaco then three weeks later . . . This time I'm going in with a different approach like in 2008, when I'm using the race to get me ready, as opposed to trying to get ready for Monaco itself."

That Diamond League meet is in a fortnight's time, before Willis moves with his 21 New Zealand team-mates to Glasgow where wife Sierra and their one-year-old son, Lachlan, will stay in a city apartment and cheer him on, along with father Richard.

Instead of easing in via the 1500m heats, he's tackling the Games head on from night one against Farah who sent the UK into a frenzy with his double London gold. The 5000m has long been on Willis's radar, and he felt now was the right time when there's not as much depth as an Olympics or world championships.

"My plan from the very beginning has been to do both, provided I'm healthy and got the training under my belt. That's certainly still my plan.

"You can't turn down an opportunity to run in front of a packed British crowd who are roaring on their local favourite. To be part of that, if anything is going to get me up in an event where you need a lot of mental tenacity."

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