Kiwis Earn Record Number Of World Championships Top Ten Finishes
New Zealand claimed six top finishes at the 2023 World Athletics Championships – a record number in the history of the 40-year event - to suggest the country is on track for a positive performance at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
While there were some individual disappointments during the nine-day competition in the Hungarian capital, the rising strength in depth of New Zealand athletics was illustrated by the number of top ten finishes which surpassed the previous best of four achieved at both the 2015 and 2017 World Championships.
Tom Walsh just missed the shot put podium by 7cm in Budapest but a fourth place finish suggests he will be in the mix for a third successive Olympic medal next year. Meanwhile, after an excellent domestic campaign, Jacko Gill backed this up in Budapest by finishing sixth - his best finish at a World Athletics Championships.
In the women’s shot put, Maddi Wesche set a lifetime best of 19.51m to finish seventh in the final and Zoe Hobbs, who has set three Oceania women’s 100m record this year, showed she can mix it with the sprinting elite, recording a blistering 11.02 in her semifinal to finish tenth overall - just missing out by one place on a finals berth.
On his World Championships debut, Connor Bell, 22, was another who performed well to finish tenth in the men’s discus final.
Yet possibly the most exciting development in Budapest was the successful conversion of George Beamish into a top-class steeplechase talent with the belief that he could threaten the podium in Paris next year.
In his first season as a senior steeplechaser, the 26-year-old set a national record in Monaco in July and in Budapest finished strongly to place fifth in the final – a best ever New Zealand placing in a men’s track race in World Championships history.
There were other positives. Tori Peeters missed out a place in the women’s javelin final by just 7cm but has enjoyed a consistent year and by finishing 13th in Budapest improved by 11 places on her performance at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene.
Individuals such as 2022 World Indoor high jump bronze medallist Hamish Kerr, 2016 Olympic pole vault bronze medallist Eliza McCartney and Sam Tanner in the men’s 1500m missed out on their personal goals in Budapest due to various factors but have enough quality to look forward positively to 2024.
Across the calendar year New Zealand athletes have also excelled to suggest the sport is in vibrant health. Kiwi athletes have set a total of 14 national senior records (excluding road mile and women’s decathlon marks) in the full range of events from sprints, distance, jumps and throws. While New Zealand athletes are earning more invites to the prestigious Diamond League meets than ever before.
Athletics NZ Performance Director Scott Newman said: “There’s a lot more to come out of this current crop of athletes. The 2023 World Athletics Championships have shown us that we have world class talent across a number of event groups, and one year out from Paris it’s now about ensuring that some of our athletes can find that little bit more on the day. That’s a clear work-on and gives us a strong base heading into an Olympic year.”