News & Updates

27 October 2023 • Community

Athletics for Everybody – David Nyika

Olympic boxing bronze medallist David Nyika is a very keen runner and looks back with fondness on his time at Hamilton City Hawks. (Credit: Getty Images)

As part of our Athletics for Everybody campaign we focus on a number of individuals who formed their foundation skills at their local athletics club before going on to flourish in other sports. In the second of our series, we speak to leading professional boxer David Nyika about his longstanding passion for running.

Olympic bronze medal-winning boxer David Nyika believes his time competing as a club athlete for Hamilton City Hawks developed the discipline and fitness which has allowed the Kiwi to thrive in the ring.

The unbeaten professional cruiserweight boxer looks back with fondness on his time in the sport of athletics and is calling on youngsters to join their local athletics club this summer to pick up some life-long skills.

Raised in Hamiton, David first recognised his talent for running at primary school and after winning his school cross country at the age of 11 the parent of a classmate suggested he join his local athletics club.

“Early on I was a naturally gifted runner and that was the incentive to get involved at Hamilton City Hawks,” he recalls. “I wasn’t the fastest sprinter, but I prided myself on being quick over long distance.”

Training at Hamilton City Hawks under several coaches, the 28-year-old boxer has many happy memories of his time at the club between the ages of 11 and 16.

“I trained two to three times a week there and I used to add in one or two extra runs a week at home,” he recalls. “I have great memories of a couple of away training trips we as a club. We would go hill training and on the grass track. Athletics is very much an individual sport, but it was so much better training with company.”

Around the age of 12 he dreamed representing New Zealand at the Olympics in the sport of athletics – and his hero was the diminutive double Olympic 10,000m champion Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia.

“Watching clips of him (Gebrselassie) running the last 200m of a marathon in 26 seconds – I thought that was awesome,” said David. “I looked up his Wikipedia page and saw that he was 5ft 3ins, and at that time I was also 5ft 3ins, so I thought all the stars were aligning.”

David stepped away from club athletics around the age of 16 but kept on competing for Hamilton Boys’ High School. As a Year 13 student he finished 79th in the senior race at the New Zealand Secondary Schools’ Cross Country Championships in Christchurch and claimed a bronze medal for Hamilton Boys’ High School in the six-person teams event.

Despite his affinity to athletics, it was boxing that ultimately won the battle for his sporting affections. However, he acknowledges the key role running played in his athletic development.

“Athletics taught me good discipline and what it took to be fit, which I could transfer into my boxing training,” he says. “Through competing and training in athletics I know how to push myself, it helped develop a good work ethic.”

Even today in his boxing career the two-time Commonwealth Games champion uses running as an important element to his overall training and conditioning. Based a one-hour inland drive from Brisbane in rural Queensland he runs three sessions per week including a long run of between 12-16km, a hill sprint or track session and a third session which includes running for three minutes followed by one minute rest to replicate the length of one round of boxing plus rest time between rounds.

“The track sessions are the hardest running sessions I do, and they still give my butterflies beforehand,” explains David. “We run on a grass track where I would do two 400m, two 200m and four 100m which would be done in around 15 minutes. The running sessions are one of my favourites.”

Despite standing at 6ft 4ins and weighing in at around 90kg, David is still a highly accomplished runner. He trained for and ran in the Sydney Half Marathon in September, clocking a highly respectable 1:22:43 – a performance the Kiwi boxing ace was delighted to achieve.

“I hadn’t competed in a race since I was a teenager, so it was cool to be back in the mix,” he explains. “To run an average of less than four minutes per kilometre, I was happy with the result.”

David would also love to target the 400m in future as he believes he has the ability to run 52 seconds for the distance – his elder brother Josh was a handy former quarter miler competing for Hamilton City Hawks – but whatever future running ambitions the talented boxer harbours he would recommend to any youngster to join their local athletics club this summer.

“Running can be beneficial to lots of other sports,” he explains. “For me it formed the discipline and fitness which allowed me to excel in boxing. The people you meet at your local athletics club are salt of the earth and the very best kinds of people. Athletics allowed me to explore my own competitive nature and is one of the purest forms of competition. Without joining my local athletics club, I don’t think I would have as well equipped to succeed in boxing.”

***To find out more about how to find your local athletics club go here