Nick Willis receives Olympic silver medal and runs Sub 4 mile

Monday, 28 February 2011

Athletics New Zealand and the New Zealand Olympic Committee express their deepest sympathy for those affected by the Christchurch earthquake and, in particular, Olympic and Commonwealth Games athletes and others from the Athletics community in the Canterbury region.

Following the indefinite postponement of the International Track Meet in Christchurch, Beijing Olympic 1500m medallist Nick Willis planned a fundraising track meet in Wellington for the people of Christchurch that was held on Saturday, 26th February 2011. The fundraising event featured a number of top international athletes. The meet was organized in conjunction with members of the Wellington Olympic and Athletics communities. Please see below highlights from the Meet:

Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis overcame emotion in running a well-paced sub-four minute mile on Saturday evening. An hour after finally being presented with his Beijing Olympic silver medal, and in a meeting he organised as a fund-raiser for the victims of the Christchurch earthquake, Willis clocked 3m 58.37s into a stiff Wellington southerly.

The minor places were filled by Willis' American training mates. Will Leer was second in a time of 3m 58.80s, and Brandon Bethke third in 4m 00.04s. Hamish Carson was fourth in 4m 10.00s, followed by Matt Lambert 4m 10.02s and Aaron Pulford 4m 18.25s.

Another training partner, top-ranked American middle distance runner Alan Webb, who earlier in the evening ran the 800m, helped the early peacemaking as the field reeled off 60 second laps after a 58sec for the opening 400m. Willis, tucked in behind, was given a luxury ride as Webb pulled out with 600m to go and Leer took over at the front. With 200m to go, Willis eased into the lead, wound up the tempo and edged out Leer in the last 50 metres. "The first 300m felt awesome but then we hit the home straight with a tail wind. The pacemaker really accelerated, and that didn't feel good on the legs," he said afterwards.

"I thought maybe the emotion of the occasion had made me fatigued, but I was able to recompose." Willis was particularly grateful at the load taken up by his American training partners. "They told me after the medal ceremony they'd be willing to take the lead after the rabbit pulled out, because of all the emotion," he said. "I owe a lot to them that I didn't have to go out and make that sacrifice at the front. That really helped me to have the confidence that, despite the fatigue and tiredness, I'd be there for the last 100m and then it was just whoever had the most at the end."

Willis finished third at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but was elevated to second after winner Rashid Ramzi tested positive for a blood-boosting drug. The Lower Hutt runner was due to finally be presented with his silver medal at the international track meeting scheduled for Christchurch on Saturday evening. But with the event cancelled because of Tuesday's 6.3-magnitude earthquake, International Olympic Committee member Barry Maister instead presented Willis with his medal in an emotional ceremony at the hastily organised meeting.

Glen Ballam won the 800m in 1m 51.01s, from Tim Hawkes 1m 51.79s and Webb 1m 52.16s. Anna Roche won the womenís 1500m in 4m 31.12s, from Sarah Drought 4m 31.98s and Caroline Mellsop 4m 32.72s. Evan Cooper won the menís 1500m in 3m 54.32s, from Jesse Patel 3m 56.97s and Cary Chaffe 3m 58.61s.


In the long jump Ryan Roselli was out to 7.28m (+0.9) and Brendan Barnett went six centimetres further than his New Zealand M16 record with 7.19m (+1.9). James Hutchens was third with 7.02m (0.0). Andrew Kennedy won the 100m in 10.94s (+0.1) from Alex Jordan 10.99s. Jordan won the 200m earlier in the afternoon in 21.37s  (+1.9) from Joseph Millar 22.25s. Elise McIlroy won the womenís 100m in 12.81s (+2.4) and the 200m in 26.47s (+2.1).

Upwards of 2000 people attended the meeting and $20,100 was collected for the Christchurch relief fund appeal.

The Salvation Armyís earthquake fund details can be found at


Articles from Athletics New Zealand's website at . Picture from