Shot put takes centre stage at nationals
Shot put will take centre stage when the New Zealand Track and Field Championships get underway on Friday, with two of the sports big names chasing national titles.
Double Olympic gold medallist and world champion Valerie Adams is the major drawcard as she goes for her 12th national title, a result effectively locked up before the competition begins.
It will be her last event in New Zealand before heading back to her training base in Switzerland to prepare for the World Championships in Moscow in August.
The sport’s rising star Jacko Gill will be defending his junior 6kg title.
The 18-year-old holds the New Zealand under-19 and under-20 record at 22.31m and will be aiming for the world under-18 and under-19 record of 22.73m held by world champion and London silver medallist David Storl of Germany since 2009.
Following an ankle injury sustained over the summer, Gill has not yet started training with the senior weight so interest in that event will centre on Tom Walsh and whether he can send the 7.26kg shot out over 20m.
The women’s sprint events shape as another event worth a watch as Olympian Monique Williams takes on Black Sticks hockey standout Anita Punt.
Williams has 11 national sprint championships to her name and will be defending the 100 and 200m titles but Punt has been the surprise package of the season.
The 25-year-old hockey player won the 100 and 300m at the International Track Meet in Christchurch in February as well as the 100 and 200m titles at the Porritt Classic in Hamilton against strong fields.
Philip Jensen will be going for title number 19 in the hammer throw.
A win would give Jensen a span of 25 years since his first title in Hamilton in 1988, to equal the longest span between titles set by Val Young in both the shot put and discus throw.
However Ryan Tinkle, who leads the rankings this season with 59.15m, will be gunning for his first senior title and also in the mix will be Adam Miller and outstanding junior Matthew Bloxham.
One of the more interesting field events will be the women’s discus with world junior champs fourth place-getter Siositina Hakeai challenging the season’s top performer Te Rina Keenan as both athletes close in on the magical 60m mark.
It is a significant year for athletics with the World Championships in August, the World Youth Championships in the Ukraine in July and the World University Games in Kazan, Russia in July.
The championships run from March 22-24 at Mt Smart Stadium and entry is free.