Rivals' help invaluable as Willis qualifies

CHRIS BARCLAY
Last updated 05:00 11/03/2013

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The last time Nick Willis competed in Sydney he lost a running spike halfway through the race - so showing his rivals a clean pair of heels on Saturday night was especially satisfying for the 2008 Olympic Games silver medallist.

The United States-based athlete from Lower Hutt powered to his first victory in Australia since he won the Commonwealth Games 1500m gold in Melbourne six years ago, his time of 3min 34.68sec erasing memories of his misfortune at the Pacific School Games when he was a 17-year-old.

More importantly, it allowed him to qualify for his specialist 1500m event at August's world championships in Moscow.

Trans-Tasman co-operation was evident as the 29-year-old sought to beat the 3min 35.00sec A qualifying time for Russia, with Victorian Collis Birmingham selflessly adopting the role of pacemaker and reigning Australian record holder Ryan Gregson making Willis work hard to attain his goal.

"I couldn't have done it without them," Willis said.

"I'm grateful to them and very, very happy with the result.

"Qualifying for the worlds is what I came here to do."

Willis now returns to his base in Michigan to prepare for a European campaign, and he is also awaiting the birth of his first child with wife, Sierra, in July.

Valerie Adams, New Zealand's other drawcard at Sydney Olympic Park, effortlessly won the women's shot put hours after learning tainted rival Nadzeya Ostapchuk had failed a drugs test spanning back to the 2005 world championships.

The Olympic champion at Beijing in 2008, Adams eventually inherited the London 2012 gold medal after the Belarusian tested positive shortly after the Games.

Adams won bronze at Helsinki, Finland, in 2005 and will now be upgraded to silver.

"I'm pretty happy that justice has been served," Adams said after crushing her rivals on Saturday night.

"That's two [positive tests now]. Once a cheater always a cheater, she will be banned for life.

"I'm just glad she's gone. That's good for us shot putters, we train day in day out hard, to be the best in the world."

Adams did not need to be at her best to win with a top throw of 20.02m. Trinidad and Tobago's Cleopatra Borel was her closest challenger with 17.10m.

Adams' winning streak is now a remarkable 94 events. Only American 400m hurdles great Ed Moses (107), shot putter Parry O'Brien (116) and Romanian high jumper Iolanda Balas (150) have fashioned better records.

Her next assignment is to collect a 12th senior shot put title at the New Zealand championships from March 22 in Auckland.

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Meanwhile, Michael Cochrane (400m hurdles), Tom Walsh (shot put) and Liz Lamb (high jump) also topped the podium in Sydney.

Cochrane clocked 50.07sec to shave 0.55sec off his previous best and beat the A qualifying time for the World Student Games in Russia in July.

- The Dominion Post

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