History made: Kiwi Olympic medallist qualifies for Tokyo by slimmest margin

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Fri, 2 Jul 2021, 9:51AM
(Photo / Photosport)
(Photo / Photosport)

History made: Kiwi Olympic medallist qualifies for Tokyo by slimmest margin

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Fri, 2 Jul 2021, 9:51AM

New Zealand athletics veteran Nick Willis will compete in a record fifth Olympic Games after making the cut for his event by the slimmest possible margin.

The 38-year-old Willis, a silver medallist in Beijing 2008 and a bronze medallist in Rio 2016, qualified as the lowest-ranked competitor in the 1500m after two higher-ranking runners opted to compete in different distances in Tokyo.

Despite being previously named in the New Zealand Olympic team, only the fastest 45 runners in his event in the world are able to take part in Tokyo and Willis, before this week, was ranked 47th and not fast enough to automatically qualify.

However, with a little help from those abstaining competitors, Willis will now become the first male New Zealand track and field athlete to compete in five Olympic Games. Willis' first Olympics was at Athens 2004.

Dame Valerie Adams will also be attending her fifth Olympics, competing in the shot put.

Nick Willis can breathe a sigh of relief after qualifying for his fifth Olympic Games. (Photo / Photosport)

2021 is becoming a year of records for Willis, after he also reached the remarkable milestone of running a sub-four-minute mile for the 19th year in a row in January.

The previous record-holder was another Kiwi legend John Walker, who was the first athlete to break the magical 3 min 50s barrier for the mile and the first to run 100 sub-four-minute miles.

"It's a little bit of an obscure record I suppose – someone made me aware of it a few years ago," Willis told NZME at the time.

"It's been on my radar, a fun thing to aim for, to keep that streak going."

Joining Willis in the 1500m in Tokyo will be 20-year-old Sam Tanner who qualified automatically with a personal best of 3:34.72 in New York in February 2020, breaking the New Zealand indoor record previously held by Willis.