Gifford: Willis unlikely controversy candidate

17:42, Aug 03 2014
Nick Willis
STRIDING FOR THE LINE: Nick Willis crosses the finish line in the 1500m.

Nick Willis, intelligent, polite and devout, is an unlikely candidate for controversy, but his Commonwealth Games campaign in Glasgow has been unusual.

In the 5000 metres final there was the tangle with Jake Robertson. We all know how that finished.

"They (the Kenyans) are the reason that I fell in the 5km, including Nick Willis, which I will not forget for four years and if I'm injured in four years, then the rest of my life maybe."

Moving on, comes the 1500m final. Conditions are crap. Pouring rain means that in parts the inside lane can pass for the steeplechase water jump.

Willis looks comfortable, and why not? He has the best form of his life leading into the Games, and he has the experience.

He takes bronze, with a withering sprint. So what's unusual about that? That it seemed to take Willis a  strangely long time to begin his terrific run home.


And no, that's not taking a parochial Kiwi-centric view. Steve Cram, once a world champion middle distance runner, now a BBC commentator, said immediately after the race: "I think Willis will stay awake tonight wondering why he left his sprint so late."

New Zealand's extremely successful Games campaign comes as no surprise to New Zealand's chef de mission, Rob Waddell.

Last year they worked out (on the basis of world championships) where on the medal table New Zealand would have finished if 2013 had been an Olympic year.

The placing? Eighth. Not on a per capita basis, just straight out eighth in the world. Waddell is happy to agree that expectation of success is a positive influence, not a burden to carry.

Apart from the weird spat over what Usain Bolt did, or didn't say, about what he thought of Glasgow, there really hasn't been too many verbal bust ups at these Games.

So full credit to Australia's gold medal Sally Pearson for saying the best thing Australia's athletic head coach Eric Hollingsworth did was leave. Hollingsworth was sacked after he slagged Pearson in a media release.

Tell us what you really feel Sally? Sure.

"Everyone has copped a lot of crap (from Holligworth) and I am so glad that I really didn't have to lift a finger to get him off the team."

A couple of days ago Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae, running through a list of relatives he's been supporting as they compete at the Games, suggested New Zealand is country where six degrees of separation is nonsense, coming down to one degree.

His words resonated  while catching up briefly with Tracey Lambrechs, who I see on a regular basis in her role as a sunny natured, positive instructor at the Millenium gyn in Mairangi Bay in Auckland.

And for people who know Tracey at the gym, trust me when I say she's walking on air days after winning bronze in the plus 75kg women's weightlifting.

"No matter how I try," she said, "I can't stop smiling."

While we're talking happy talk, veteran Englishwoman Jo Pavey, showed beautiful self depreciation as she summed up her courageous run for bronze in the women's 5000m: "To think that I'm 40, and a Mum with two small children it seems almost funny to me that I'm winning a medal. "

 And yes, as if we needed any more proof Usain Bolt was the star of the Games, the rain really did stop before he brilliantly anchored Jamaica  to gold in the 4 x 100m relay.