Track & Field
Lucy van Dalen came from nowhere to make the Olympics. Now she's literally jumping for joy after earning a spot in Wednesday night's semifinals of the 1500m.
Van Dalen, the 23-year-old former Wanganui Collegiate standout, survived a nerve-jangling wait after finishing eighth in the first of three heats at a jam-packed Olympic Stadium at the end of the Monday morning session - outside the automatic top-six qualifiers.
But eventually the chirpy Kiwi, who's just finished up at Stony Brook University, in Long Island, New York, found her time of 4m 07.04s - two seconds outside her PB - stood up through the remaining two heats.
Luckily she found herself in easily the fastest of the three heats and comfortably qualified second among the six fastest losers for the semifinals (early Thursday, NZ time), with the 13th best time overall.
Ethiopia's Abeba Aregawi was the fastest qualifier with 4:04.55 set in Van Dalen's heat, followed by two-time world champ Tatyana Tomashova of Russia (4:05.10) who was second in the same race.
A bubbly sort at the worst of times, Van Dalen - coached as a youngster by Wanganui guru Alec McNab - could not hide her joy upon discovering she was still alive at a Games experience she's thriving on.
"It was kinda nerve-racking watching the other races but I knew I gave it my best," she said, letting out squeals of joy to underline her content.
"It's just such a blessing to be in the semi - oh my goodness, I'm so excited. I can't wait to get back out there. It was such a blast. I felt really strong, so it's a confidence booster for the semifinal. I'm ready to rock it."
Van Dalen came off the track comfortable she'd done her best, even though a check 200m out hadn't done her any favours for the kick home.
"It was a little bit pushy and shovy, and they got away from me a little bit. But that happens in races all the time, so no excuses."
She described the experience of racing in front of the huge capacity crowd as amazing. "I came out and my family and friends were cheering out my name. I saw them, it was really cool ... I made sure I took in the moment as well as focused on my race."
She followed her coach's instructions to hug the inside track and said she felt she ran "a solid and smart race" to meet her pre-Games goal.
Van Dalen, whose twin sister Holly is also an international class middle-distance runner, was a late addition to the New Zealand team when she posted an A standard qualifying time of 4:05.76 in June in San Diego.
That capped a week where in back-to-back races she had shaved a massive six seconds off her PB.
"When I ran 4:05 [to qualify] my coach and I knew where I was at. Being able to run around that time consistently would be really good. Now I''m out of college I should be able to get into some fast races."
She also confirmed that New Zealand is calling her. She'll be back for a holiday soon and hopes to settle permanently "closer to home". In the meantime she has one of those fast races coming up.
- © Fairfax NZ News