Nick Willis nudges closer to world champs spot with season's best 1500m in Padova
Two-time Olympic 1500m medallist Nick Willis has taken a significant stride towards a spot at the world championships in London with his best performance of the season in Italy.
The 34-year-old US-based Kiwi athlete ran a season's best time of 3min 36.95s to finish fourth in a competitive 1500m in Padova – an achievement which, as it stands now, would likely gain him a spot in the New Zealand team for London.
The mark is well below Willis' career best of 3:29.66 set in Monaco in 2015, but does beat the New Zealand B standard (3:37.50) for London. It is just shy of the A mark of 3:36.00 which would guarantee his spot.
Given Willis' status as a two-time Olympic medallist (silver in Beijing in 2008 and bronze in Rio last year) and the fact that a shin splints injury forced a belated start to his season in 2017, it's highly likely the national selectors would view the B standard as good enough to punch his ticket for the worlds (August 4-13 at the Olympic stadium).
Where it gets interesting, and just a little tight, for the veteran Lower Hutt runner is that right now he sits at No 42 on the IAAF's qualification list for the 1500m in London. Their target number for the event is 45.
So if the New Zealand team was picked today Willis would have an invite which combined with his B standard would almost certainly get him the nod in the Kiwi team.
The selection cutoff is July 23, so those qualification lists are not yet final.
Willis has one more race before that deadline, and it will more than likely be a fast one, which could make his current status moot anyway.
That 1500m will be in Monaco on July 21 where the Kiwi has a history of running blistering times. As well as that 3:29.66 in 2015, he ran 3:29.91 there in 2014, and also posted sub-3:32 times in 2011 and 2012.
It's a fast track, almost always serving up optimum conditions, and Willis appears to be building into some form after his late start to the season. In Padova he was just 0.39s behind Kenyan winner Jonathan Kiplimo Sawe.
Another Kiwi athlete sweating on a spot in London right up to the cutoff is Hamilton hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe.
Ratcliffe, with a season's best of 70.35m to win in the New York hammer series at Princeton early Monday (NZT), sits at 26 on the IAAF qualification list for the event – well inside the target number of 32.
But the B standard for the hammer for London is 71.00m, which means she likely still has to hit that mark before the July 23 cutoff. Her PB is 70.75m set last year in London, but her throw at Princeton was the second best of her career.