New Zealand Trials Preview

Athletics: In the running for Melbourne
By Terry Maddaford

New Zealand’s best athletes will, for once, be on show at the national championships at QEII Park in Christchurch.

The two-day condensed meeting (senior men and women and athletes with a disability only), starting this morning and ending tomorrow, will boast all but one or two of those who have qualified for March’s Commonwealth Games.

Too often in the past, athletes who have reached the required standards have then by-passed the championships. Not this time.

As a prerequisite for selection, all must front. In a couple of events that will guarantee top-quality fields.

The men’s 1500m has attracted a field of 36, the highest entry for any event at the championships.

Included in the big field are Nick Willis, Adrian Blincoe and Paul Hamblyn who have all gone under the 3m 38.40s standard. While they are virtually assured of going to Melbourne, they would not want to allow a fourth athlete make the time and throw selection into a quandary.

It is much the same story in the women’s 3000m steeplechase, where world mountain running champion Kate McIlroy, Rebecca Furlong and Fiona Crombie have all been under the 10m 05s qualifying mark. McIlroy, favoured to win tomorrow morning’s final, can be expected to go a good deal faster and post a time which will have her among the favourites in Melbourne.

This afternoon’s men’s 100m final (after heats this morning) will be a cracker.

With a 4x100m relay time already posted, the first three across the line will be guaranteed spots on that team. The fourth place and any reserves will be at the selectors’ discretion. With no sprinter expected to post the necessary 10.30s to book a place in the individual event, the pressure will be on Chris Donaldson, Donald MacDonald, David Falealili, Dallas Roberts, Matt Brown, James Dolphin and James Mortimer and one or two others to grab a medal and a Games spot.

For those athletes who attained their qualifying marks some months ago, the pressure will be to reproduce that form as the selectors prepare to name their team on February 7, two days after the Australian Championships in Sydney.

Those championships will provide the last opportunity for all athletes.

Selection panel convenor Dave Norris has made it clear there will be no consideration after that date. Just as there will be no chance for marathon runners John Henwood and Shireen Crumpton to have their cases reheard. They both missed their target times by less than 6s. There is no provision for their inclusion.

The selectors, in association with the National Olympic Committee, have drawn up a reasonably tough criteria aimed at top-six performances. While that might be a trifle optimistic, there is a genuine belief the team will be as strong as any sent to recent Games.

Nineteen athletes were selected for Manchester four years ago. Sixteen made it to the start after pole vaulters Emma Draisey and Jenni Dryburgh and discus thrower Ian Winchester withdrew through injury. The team returned with one gold medal (Beatrice Faumuina) and three silvers (Valerie Adams [now Vili], Craig Barrett and Phil Jensen) and eight other top-10 performances.

Faumuina, Vili and Barrett have already qualified for Melbourne while Jensen needs about a three-metre improvement to reach the hammer throw target of 68.50m this weekend. He won silver four years ago with a 69.48m effort.

There will be added interest this time with the decision to include the men’s decathlon and women’s heptathlon championships as part of the programme. In recent years the multi-event championships have been held separately.

Two decathletes from opposite ends of the country, Peter Cox (Dunedin) and Brent Newdick (Counties Manukau) will go head-to-head with Cox needing only a 25-point improvement from his November effort to reach the 7500-point target.

The championships are being held today and tomorrow to allow the athletes to attend tomorrow night’s awards ceremony.


Chris Donaldson

Born: May 26 1975
Height: 1.88m
Weight: 80kg
Lives: Dunedin
Coach: Brent Ward
Personal bests.-
100m: 10.17s
200m: 20.42s (NZ record)
4x100m relay: 38.99s

Represented New Zealand.-
1998: Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games
1999: World indoor track and field championships
1999: World track and field championships
2000: Sydney Olympic Games (withdrew injured)
2003: World track and field championships

Chantal Brunner

Born: May 26 1975
Height: 1.67m
Weight: 58kg
Lives: Auckland
Coach: Jonathon Moyle
Personal bests.-
Long jump: 6.68m
100m: 11.64s
200m: 24.02s

Represented New Zealand.-
1995: World track and field championships
1996: Atlanta Olympic Games
2000: Sydney Olympic Games
2002: Manchester Commonwealth Games
2002: World Cup

Nick Willis

Born: April 27, 1983
Height: 1.83m
Weight: 68kg
Lives: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Coach: Ron Warhurst
Personal bests.-
800m: 1m 45.54s
1500m: 3m 32.38s (NZ record)
Mile: 3m 53.43s
3000m: 7m 44.90s
5000m: 13m 27.54s

Represented New Zealand.-
2002: World junior track and field championships
2003: World cross-country championships
2004: World cross-country championships
2004: Athens Olympic Games
2005: World track and field championships

Kimberley Smith

Born: November 19 1981
Height: 1.66m
Weight: 49kg
Lives: Providence, Rhode Island
Coach: Ray Treacy
Personal bests.-
1500m: 4m 11.25s
3000m: 8m 49.18s (indoors)
5000m: 14m 50.46s (indoors)
10,000m: 31m 21.00s

Represented New Zealand.-
2003: World cross-country championships
2004: Athens Olympic Games
2005: World University Games
2005: World cross-country championships
2005: World track and field championships

Kate McIlroy

Born: August 26 1981
Height: 1.70m
Weight: 59kg
Lives: Wellington
Coach: John Bowden
Personal bests.-
1500m: 4m 23.97s
5000m: 15m 57.12s
3000m steeplechase: 9m 51.39s (NZ record)

Represented New Zealand:
2000: World junior track and field championships
2005: World cross-country championships
2005: world mountain running championships (won)

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