News & Updates

4 August 2022 • Track and Field

Hamish flies high to achieve New Zealand first

(Photo: Alisha Lovrich)

On an historic night for New Zealand athletics at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, Hamish Kerr celebrated a brilliant gold medal in the men’s high jump, Maddi Wesche snared bronze in the women’s shot put and Zoe Hobbs finished sixth up against a world-class field in the women’s 100m final.

In the men’s high jump, Hamish Kerr proved a class apart to dethrone defending champion Brandon Starc of Australia with a best clearance of 2.25m to become the first Kiwi gold medallist (or medallist of any colour) in the men’s high jump at a Commonwealth Games.

The history-defining athlete, who earlier this year became the first New Zealander to win a global high jump medal with bronze at the World Indoor Championships in March, once again achieved another huge milestone moment with a dominant display.

Hamish, the New Zealand record-holder with a best of 2.31m, looked in total control clearing his opening height of 2.15m at the first time of asking and maintained his flawless record with first time clearances at 2.19m, 2.22m and 2.25m to pile the pressure on his opposition. Looking relaxed throughout he spent large chunks of the competition chatting amiably to his fellow competitors.

Starc was the only athlete in the 13-man field who could respond also soaring above 2.25m with his first attempt, however as the Australian sustained some early misses the amiable Auckland-raised but now Christchurch-based athlete knew he was in control of the competition on countback.

As the bar was raised to 2.28m the greater pressure was thrust upon the Australian jumper, who knew to dislodge the New Zealand champion from gold he would have to make a successful clearance.

The truth Starc never came close, and although Hamish spoiled his otherwise flawless record as he too missed out on that height with his three attempts, it did not matter one bit as the Kiwi was crowned Commonwealth champion on countback.

Tejaswin Shankar of India claimed bronze with a best of 2.22m.

An elated Hamish said: “This is unreal. I knew I came in with some pretty good form but at the same time to get it done tit is amazing. The stadium is awesome, and I fed off that energy. I’m in shock.

“I was confident, but I knew there were some guys in that field who can jump pretty high,” adds Hamish. “I knew I couldn’t take my foot off the accelerator, so I was looking towards the next jump. As the other guys then started to falter, I could see that I was in a pretty good position.

“I back myself (to perform well in big competitions) and I think I am a real competitor. I love the sport, I love jumping and I love jumping in front of a crowd so tonight definitely got me going.

“It has been a long year for me, and I’ve been away from New Zealand since May, which is the longest stint I’ve ever had away from home. That has created its challenges. My coach wasn’t able to come with me for a quite a while because he had Covid, so I’ve been chasing form a little bit but to get it done is a massive relief.”

Maddi Wesche maintained New Zealand’s incredible shot put tradition by winning a bronze medal in a drama-filled climax to the competition inside a packed and buzzing Alexandra Stadium.

The 23-year-old Aucklander, who last month set a PB of 19.50m to place seventh in the World Championships, took early control of the competition with an impressive opener of 18.84m.

The former World U20 champion could not extend on that in round two, hurling the metal ball out to 18.54m but she maintained her position in provisional gold as some of her main rivals struggled to find their rhythm.

However, an 18.98m put by defending champion Danniel Thomas-Dodd elevated the Jamaican into top spot in round three as the Kiwi produced a best of 17.86m.

Maddi unleashed what looked a huge throw in round four but lost her balance out of the circle and unfortunately registered a foul, and with no change to the overall picture she remained in provisional silver.

The medal positions picture remained static in round five as Maddi registered a further foul, although World Championship fourth place finisher Sarah Mitton of Canada, who had up until that point endured a below-par competition, was showing signs of finding her rhythm powering the shot out to 18.29m in round five.

And it was Mitton who turned the competition upside down in the final stanza, as the 20m plus thrower uncorked a 19.03m effort to move into gold relegating Maddi into bronze.

Neither the Kiwi – with a final effort of 18.48m – nor Thomas-Dodd could respond to the challenge, but Maddi had the huge consolation of picking up her maiden international senior medal.

It was also New Zealand 12th ever medal in a women’s shot put adding to the seven gold medals and four silver medals won at previous editions of the Commonwealth Games.

“It was a really good opener (of 18.84m) I thought I would climb from there but I’m not going to complain with a bronze medal

“The crowd was crazy. I don’t think I’ve ever competed in a crowd like it, you just have to thrive off it. I’d come back to this atmosphere any day. I have at least a couple more years to grow as an athlete, but I I’m getting there.”

Zoe Hobbs enjoyed another thunderous night of sprinting as the New Zealander speedster finished sixth in a world-class final of the women’s 100m.

The Kiwi, who last month reached the semi-finals at the World Championships and recorded an Oceania record of 11.08, had earlier impressed in her semi-final finishing second in 11.15 – just 0.10 behind Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah – to become the first Kiwi since Briar Toop to reach a women’s Commonwealth 100m final for 32 years.

Zoe, who time and time again over the past six months or so has been the master of the seemingly impossible, looked calm and composed ahead of the final which featured six sub-11 second performers.

Blitzing out of the blocks and making an impressive start the first half of the race the Taranaki-raised athlete was in medal contention until the stellar field started to pile on the pressure in the latter stages.

Retaining her cool the Kiwi maintained her form to cross the line in sixth in 11.19 behind Thompson-Herah who proved too good for the rest recording 10.95 (+0.4m/s) – 0.06 clear of silver medallist Julien Alfred of St Lucia. England’s Daryll Neita won bronze in 11.07.

“I am ecstatic,” said Zoe post-race. “Just to make the final was incredible. The field out there was amazing and to run against the Olympic champion at a Commonwealth Games was unreal. To finish sixth, I was so stoked.

“My starts have been going really well, and I just want to compose myself in the last 50m which is where I’ve been losing it. The idea was to get that start and relax through the second half of the race. I think it paid off as it allowed me to not tighten up.”

Zoe, who admits she has had to contend with a recent bout of Covid after travelling back from the World Championships a couple of weeks ago, added of featuring in her first major international final: “It is quite overwhelming and a new experience, but I loved the atmosphere it was so cool to be a part of.”

Two Kiwis are in action in tonight’s session (NZ time)

9pm – Nicole Bradley, Lauren Bruce and Julia Ratcliffe – Women’s hammer qualification

10.05pm – Keeley O’Hagan – Women’s High Jump qualification Pool B

10.34pm – Sam Tanner – Men’s 1500m heat two

For full results go here.

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