Foot injury forces Kim Smith out, Gill victorious
It was the classic good news, bad news day for New Zealand's team, exactly a month out from day one of the Commonwealth Games athletics programme.
As word filtered through from Rarotonga of teenage strongman Jacko Gill's shot put personal best of 20.70m, confirming his medal credentials, marathoner Kim Smith announced she was out of the Games with an ongoing foot injury.
The 32-year-old, a three-time Olympian and national record-holder, was poised for her first Commonwealth Games and appeared a genuine medal hope on the strength of her 15th placing in London two years ago.
Smith told Athletics New Zealand high performance director Scott Goodman from her United States base she couldn't line up on the streets of Glasgow on July 27 convinced of giving 100 per cent in the black singlet.
"She's had an Achilles-type problem. We've known for a while," Goodman said.
"It's something that doesn't enable her to do the training volume she wants to do. She possibly could run, but she's made a decision that she would be underprepared and she would prefer not to race than go in and not perform as well as she'd like to be able to."
It reduced the New Zealand athletics team to 21, with one more to be added to the women's 4x400m relay team.
Gill, meanwhile, produced his most significant throw since December 2011 when he set a then-national record of 20.38m.
The 19-year-old extended that by 32cm to become Oceania champion in Rarotonga, a big improvement on the 19.93m he threw in finishing second to Tom Walsh at the nationals in March, which qualified him for Glasgow.
The 20.70m effort ranked Gill fourth in the Commonwealth this year, behind Walsh (national record of 21.26m), Jamaican O'Dayne Richards (21.11m) and Canadian Tim Nedow (20.98m). Another Canadian, Dylan Armstrong, was tipped as the early favourite but is yet to throw competitively this season.
"It indicates the setup around Jacko now with [coach] Kirsten Hellier involved. He's really settled into some good routines. There's every indication that him and Tom are both going to be very competitive in Glasgow," Goodman said.
Gill, a two-time world junior champion, was reluctant to travel too far from his Auckland base, and the Rarotonga meet was chosen because he would be under minimal pressure. He had also shaken off the niggly injuries that hampered his buildup to his much-awaited clash with Walsh in March.
The Dominion Post