Immigration setback for NZ Olympic hopeful

09:29, Jun 01 2009

Emerging middle-distance talent Nikki Hamblin has been officially refused New Zealand citizenship, ruling her out of the Kiwi team for August's world championships in Berlin and threatening her chances of wearing the black singlet at the 2012 Olympics.

Hamblin's coach, Chris Pilone, fears the immigration process may take that long for the English-born 1500m runner, and the news from sports governing agency, Sparc, isn't too positive either.

The Star-Times reported last week how Hamblin, who won the New Zealand 800m and 1500m titles last year, was appealing to immigration minister Richard Worth to grant her citizenship under an "exceptional circumstances" rule so she could compete at the world championships for New Zealand. She was told on Tuesday she would not be given a passport.

Athletics New Zealand high-performance director Kevin Ankrom has taken up the fight, approaching Sparc for their help.

But Sparc spokesman John Tulloch said they had advised Athletics NZ to pursue a talent visa for Hamblin, which they would support. However, that would give her Kiwi residency, not citizenship, and IAAF rules demand athletes must have a passport before representing their country.

Pilone is worried that if Hamblin is forced to follow the full process for converting residency to citizenship, she may wait another four years. "They [immigration] have been very unhelpful and at times, just plain awkward with Nikki," Pilone said.

Athletics New Zealand chief executive Scott Newman says they will keep battling.

"I know Kevin is certainly interested in pursuing it and seeing if Sparc have some leverage to assist. We're keen to keep pushing it and see a way to getting it [her citizenship] done as quick as we can."


Sunday Star Times