Nick Willis brassed off by bronze in Glasgow

MARK GEENTY IN GLASGOW
Last updated 05:00 04/08/2014
Nick Willis
ROBERT KITCHIN/ Fairfax NZ
STRIDING FOR THE LINE: Nick Willis crosses the finish line in the 1500m.

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It was as hollow as Nick Willis had felt with a New Zealand flag around his shoulders and medal around his neck.

He lingered 20 minutes on the rain-soaked Hampden Park track, trotting behind the Kenyan quinella, James Magut and Ronald Kwemoi, completing a victory lap of sorts as his family and Kiwi flags stood proudly.

The victory was that 31-year-old Willis made the podium at all after missing the boat when the sprint went on at the 200 metres. At the 120m mark he was eighth and trying to clear traffic; then he hooked wide and unleashed a trademark burst to lunge past his South African mate Johan Cronje for bronze.

Magut's winning time of 3:39.31 ensured Filbert Bayi's Games record of 3:32.16 in Christchurch 40 years ago remained intact. Willis clocked 3:39.60, while compatriot Julian Matthews was ninth in his first major final in 3:41.84.

There were more grimaces than grins from the Willis dial; honoured to add to New Zealand's medal tally but kicking himself for a poor tactical race. Having controlled his heat and stamped his gold medal credentials, he looked gone in the final then found another gear.

"I'll watch the race with a huge amount of frustration thinking what could have been. I'm not saying I would have beaten those guys but you at least want to be in the conversation with 100m to go and today I wasn't," he said.

It was a third successive Games 1500m medal for Willis, after gold in Melbourne in 2006 and bronze in Delhi four years ago.

After breaking his own New Zealand record when he dipped under 3:30 in his final leadup in Monaco, Willis arrived in Glasgow with wife Sierra and 1-year-old son Lachlan as a medal banker. Kwemoi, just 18, went faster in Monaco while Magut was identified by Willis as toughest to beat.

Yet Willis had to prove a point after his London Olympics flop two years ago, which also followed a scorching Monaco run, and disappointment at recent world championships. He attempted the 5000m-1500m double for the first time, sharpening his focus.

"The 5km definitely motivated me. I committed to doing the two races but especially after London and the last two world championships I haven't performed to the best of my abilities and I didn't want it to become a habit, to not really live up to it. This was it, if I didn't do it today then I don't know how I would have coped emotionally going into Rio [Olympics in 2016]." Fairfax NZ

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