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15 Strong Athletics Team Named For Paris 2024 Olympic Games

A pair of reigning World Indoor champions and two former Olympic medallists have earned selection as part of the initial 15-strong athletics team set to compete at Paris 2024.

Following the success of the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow last month - in which New Zealand finished a stunning third in the medal table with two gold and two silver medals - the 2024 Olympic team is bubbling with proven world-class ability and exciting potential.

Fresh from his spellbinding World Indoor high jump gold medal and national record performance of 2.36m in Glasgow last month, Hamish Kerr has earned selection for a second crack at the Olympic Games. The Christchurch-based athlete, who placed tenth on his Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games, is currently riding the crest of a wave and will look with optimism to Paris where he bids to become the first New Zealander to win an Olympic high jump medal.

New Zealand’s other current World Indoor champion George Beamish makes his Olympic debut in the men’s 3000m steeplechase – becoming the first Kiwi steeplechaser at an Olympic Games for 40 years. While the versatile US-based Kiwi blitzed to World Indoor glory over 1500m, the 27-year-old Hawkes Bay-raised athlete competes over the barriers in Paris, bolstered by an excellent showing at the 2023 World Athletics Championships when he placed fifth.

The team will see the welcome return of pole vaulter Eliza McCartney, who last competed on the Olympic stage when winning bronze as a teenager at Rio 2016. The New Zealand record-holder has had her injury struggles in recent years, but the Aucklander is back to her best as evidenced by her World Indoor silver medal in Glasgow last month.

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“It’s hard to put into words what this means to me after the rollercoaster ride of the last four years,” said McCartney.

“I started this Olympic campaign knowing full well I may never go to the Olympics again, so to have reached this point is incredibly special and a huge honour.”

To further underline the strength and depth of women’s vaulting in New Zealand, McCartney will be joined on the New Zealand team by Olympic debutants Olivia McTaggart, and Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Imogen Ayris – subject to the pair meeting performance conditions.

Both Tom Walsh and Jacko Gill are all set for a third successive Olympic appearance in the men’s shot. Christchurch-based Walsh, the current Commonwealth champion, is hunting history as he bids to become the first Kiwi man to land athletics medals at three successive Olympics after snaring bronze at Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.

Gill, the Commonwealth silver medallist, will be seeking to better his ninth-place finish at each of the past two Olympic Games. In good form, the 29-year-old Aucklander last month claimed his best finish at a global senior championship when fifth at World Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow.

Further bolstering the New Zealand shot challenge is Maddi Wesche, who is set for her second Olympic appearance. The 2020 Tokyo Olympic sixth place finisher and Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist produced the longest throw of her career with a 19.62m effort to place fourth at the World Indoor Championships last month to indicate the 24-year-old Aucklander is great shape to perform well in the French capital.

World Indoor 60m fourth place finisher Zoe Hobbs is also set for her Olympic debut as she becomes the first Kiwi to be selected in the women’s 100m at an Olympic Games since 1976.

The first Oceania woman to run a sub-11-second 100m is in excellent form and the 26-year-old Auckland-based athlete will be sure to garner much attention as she bids to become the first Kiwi to reach an Olympic 100m final for 100 years since Sir Arthur Porritt won men’s 100m bronze at the 1924 Paris Games.

“It’s so exciting,” said Hobbs. “I’ve had the dream of going to the Olympics since I was a little kid, I’ve been doing sports since the age of five and it’s something I’ve always wanted to achieve.

“It’s a real privilege, it’s been a number of years since we’ve had a woman compete in the 100m for New Zealand and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Papamoa-based Sam Tanner, the New Zealand all-time number two for the 1500m and mile, has earned selection in the men’s 1500m at a second successive Olympic Games while Camille French has booked her ticket for Paris in the marathon. French, 33, a mum to Sienna, who was born in 2022, earned the Olympic entry standard with a 2:26:08 performance in Valencia. She previously competed in the 5000m and 10,000m at the Tokyo Olympics.

Three further throwers will also feature in Paris as Connor Bell (men’s discus), Tori Peeters (women’s javelin) and Lauren Bruce (women’s hammer, subject to additional conditions) have earned Paris 2024 selection. Auckland-based Bell, who bettered his national discus record with a stunning 68.10m throw in Oklahoma on 14 April, and Peeters, who finished second in the 2023 Diamond League Final in Eugene, will be making their Olympic debuts. Hamilton-based Peeters will be the first New Zealand women’s javelin thrower to appear at an Olympic Games since her coach Kirsten Hellier competed in Barcelona 1992. Melbourne-based Timaru-raised Bruce, the Oceania hammer record-holder, is set – subject to meeting performance conditions - for her second Olympic Games after competing at Tokyo 2020.

Bell said: “I have been really pleased with my form in 2024 and to have extended my national record twice recently as part of my US tour has given me a lot of confidence. I am thrilled to have ticked all the boxes to earn my Olympic selection and I look forward to the next stage of my preparation for Paris.”

The team is rounded out by Ethan Olivier, 18, who is set to become the first New Zealand triple jumper to compete at an Olympic Games since Dave Norris at the 1960 Rome Olympics. South African-based Olivier posted a national record of 16.67m in Brussels last year and placed fourth at the 2022 World U20 Championships in Cali.

NZOC CEO Nicki Nicol extended her congratulations to the athletes.

"We are a proud nation when it comes to athletics and we have a really rich Olympic history in track and field," said Nicol.

"It's great to be adding to that history today and we look forward to seeing these athletes compete in around 100-days time."

Athletics NZ CE Cam Mitchell said: “We are very excited to select a team with genuine medal chances across a range of events. Athletics has long been regarded as the number one Olympic sport and I’m sure the team will generate much interest within the New Zealand public. I for one can’t wait to see how they will perform on the biggest stage of all in Paris.”

The athletics will be contested in Paris from July 27th to August 5th at the stunning Stade de France, with the marathon to wind its way through the city and past iconic landmarks.

All selections are conditional on confirmation of an Olympic quota place which should be received early July.

© Scoop Media

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