News & Updates

25 February 2021 • Track and Field

Battle of the titans set to mark Sir Graeme Douglas International

Eddie Osei-Nketia in action at the 2020 Sir Graeme Douglas International (Photo: Alisha Lovrich)

The battle of the titans between New Zealand’s fastest men and two of the country’s strongest will be among the highlights of an action-packed evening of top-class athletics at the Trusts Arena in Auckland on Saturday.

The Sir Graeme Douglas International, presented by Harcourts Cooper & Co, is one of the highlights of the athletics calendar and – as a World Athletics Continental Tour Bronze level meet – assumes great importance in this Olympic year with the points on offer among the highest available in the Oceania region.

There will be no shortage of intrigue as the country’s best athletes gather for the penultimate major meet of the season, followed swiftly by the Jennian Homes New Zealand Track and Field Championships the following week.

The respective match-ups between sprint sensation Eddie Osei-Nketia and Tiaan Whelpton, and shot put kings Tom Walsh and Jacko Gill, have been arguably the most enthralling storylines this summer and each is set to go head-to-head again this weekend.

In the male sprinting battles this season, Whelpton sprung an upset by prevailing over Osei-Nketia at the Potts Classic last month, while Osei-Nketia was back in the winner’s circle at the Christchurch International Meeting over 200m and then again in the 100m at the Porritt Classic with a scorching 10.28 – his fastest ever legal 100m time in New Zealand.

Osei-Nketia then backed that up with another win at the Capital Classic last weekend, although Whelpton was not there to push his rival and friend to the limit.

They are both on fairly level pegging this year with Osei-Nketia’s 10.28 just edging out Whelpton’s season best of 10.30.

Whelpton last raced at the Douglas Track and Field in 2019 when he was third in the 100m in 10.63, behind Osei-Nketia and Hamish Gill, who both clocked 10.52.

“I’m excited to be racing at Waitakere again as it is a quick track and has a record of speedy times,” Whelpton says.

“I was third two years ago and I’m looking forward to being back. My goal is to dip into the 10.20’s which has been my life-time goal. But, being a Continental bronze meeting, there are a lot of points to be gained from the placings so I’ll be just as happy with 10.30.”

The other anticipated clash is in the field events where Walsh may be smarting from recent losses to Gill and will be fired up to make amends.

Walsh enjoys competing at Waitakere, having won last year with 21.66m and, in 2018, setting a New Zealand all comers and residents record of 22.67m at the venue. Gill, with six straight victories in all his competitions this season, was third at the Sir Graeme Douglas meeting in 2019 with a throw of 20.76m.

Given favourable conditions, Hamish Kerr could meanwhile achieve the Olympic qualifying height of 2.33m in the high jump. He is finally the outright holder of the New Zealand record – which he previously shared with Glenn Howard – at 2.31 and, with that now out of the way, his strategy is to tackle the Olympic height earlier than he has in previous competitions.

Dame Valerie Adams, who is safely qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games, will follow up wins in 2016 and 2018, and second last year to Canadian Sarah Mitton, at Trusts Arena in the shot put.

Maddison-Lee Wesche has a best of 18.32m from the 2019 meeting and recent form indicates that a throw over 18.50m could be imminent.

Hamish Carson, buoyed by his recent first sub-14-minute 5000m time, moves down in distance to the 800m. The ten-times New Zealand champion last raced 800m indoors in Belgium in early 2020 and his most recent crack at the distance in New Zealand was at the 2018 Night of 5s meeting. He has a best of 1:49.15 in the United States in 2014.

James Preston will be hard to peg back after recording 1:48.67 at the Potts Classic and 1:47.84 at the Porritt, his first 800m since mid-2019 in Belgium. Alex Beddoes of the Cook Islands, with a personal best of 1:47.85 at Porritt, and Dominic Devlin, who clocked 1:49.71, should ensure the race is kept honest.

Another exciting women’s 1500m is in store with the country’s leading middle distance runners – Camille Buscomb, Katherine Camp, Rebekah Greene, Susannah Lynch and Kara Macdermid – all capable of clocking under 4:20.00. Meanwhile, Sophie Atkinson and Stella Pearless are expected to battle out the women’s 800m.

Zoe Hobbs is aiming to follow up her 100m win in 11.38 last year in the dash against Natasha Eady, Georgia Hulls and Symone Tafuna’i.

Hobbs, who improved on her resident record to 11.35 in January, is closing in on the long-standing national record of 11.32, held by Michelle Seymour since 1993.

Previously a 100m and 200m specialist, Hamish Gill will be seeking his third victory in as many weeks in the 400m, aiming to reduce his best of 47.72 on event debut at the Porritt Classic.

Olivia McTaggart has a best this season in the pole vault of 4.55m and will have her sights set on the Olympic qualifying height of 4.70m. She will again battle against her training partner after prevailing over Imogen Ayris on countback in Wellington last weekend.

National champion for the last two seasons, James Steyn is the one to watch in the men’s pole vault.

Tori Peeters will be aiming to improve on her New Zealand resident record of 57.79m in the javelin throw.

Cameron French will race the 400m hurdles, while Joshua Hawkins and Amy Robertson feature in the sprint hurdles and Jordyn Blake in the women’s 400m. In the horizontal jumps, Matthew Wyatt and Felix McDonald will compete in the long jump while a top line-up of Anna Thomson, Sarah Cowley-Ross and Diana Ismagilova will contest the women’s triple jump.

In one of the evening’s interesting non-Continental events, Ben Bidois from WaiBOP will be the only non-Aucklander coming up against Sam Berry, Ronan Codyre, Jude Darby, Christian de Vaal, Zane Powell and Jahko Tohaia in the 34th annual Sir John Walker junior mile.

Pre-meet and event qualifying starts from 5pm with the main programme at 6pm.

The live streaming on Sky Sport Next and live broadcast on Sky Sport 9 begin at 6pm.

For a complimentary programme please click here

For more information, including the timetable and field lists, please click here 

Sir Graeme Douglas International
Presented by Harcourts Cooper & Co
Saturday 27 February, 5pm
Douglas Track and Field, The Trusts Arena
Henderson, Auckland
Free entry
Live from 6pm on Sky Sport 9 TV and Sky Sport Next YouTube
Results will be available at live.athletic.net/meets/7270

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