News & Updates

22 August 2023 • Track and Field

Hobbs and Bell secure top ten finishes in Budapest

Zoe Hobbs blitzes to an outstanding time of 11.02 in her semifinal of the women’s 100m. Credit: (Michael Dawson).

New Zealand claimed a pair of top ten finishes on day three of the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest as Zoe Hobbs ran a blistering 11.02 in her semifinal, just missing out on a final spot by one hundredth of a second, and Connor Bell placed tenth in the men’s discus final.

It was yet another outstanding display by Hobbs – who came within six hundredths of a second of her national record time – and once again cements her growing status within the sprinting elite. Drawn in a loaded second semi-final, which featured the fastest three women in the world this year coming into the championships – Jamaican Shericka Jackson, American Sha’Carri Richardson and Marie-Josee Ta Lou of the Ivory Coast – the 25-year-old Kiwi was unfazed by the challenge.

On a hot, humid night in the National Athletics Centre, Hobbs made a slick start and implemented a composed and controlled piece of sprinting to cross the finish line fourth behind Jackson and Ta-Lou, who were both credited with 10.79 to grab the two automatic qualification spots. Richardson placed third in 10.84 to secure one of the additional final places on time.

Following the completion of three high-quality semifinals it emerged that Great Britain’s Dina-Asher Smith and Ewa Swoboda of Poland – who both clocked 11.01 could not be separated – and both were awarded a place in the final which featured nine athletes.

Hobbs can be enormously proud to place tenth overall – just one place short – of becoming the first Kiwi – male or female – in 99 years to reach a global (Olympics or World Championships) 100m final. Arthur Porritt, who won a bronze medal at the 1924 Paris Olympics, was the last New Zealander to achieve the feat.  

Hobbs said: “It is obviously bittersweet to miss the finals by 0.01, but I can’t not be both happy and proud tonight of how the race went, and I don’t have any regrets of how I executed the race. I was drawn in a stacked semi and knew if I wanted to make that final, I needed to stay composed in my own lane and just execute my own race. As it turns out it was the fastest semifinal we’ve had in history, so to have executed, where it mattered most I am very happy with.”

Connor Bell was elated to finish tenth on his World Championships debut after hurling a best effort for the day of 63.23m.

The 22-year-old Aucklander, who initially had finished 13th in qualification to miss out by one place on the final only to later be upgraded to 12th and secure a berth in the medal round following a successful review of a throw by Swedish thrower Simon Pettersson, achieved his best of the day with his first round effort.

A foul in the second round followed by a 62.21m throw in the third stanza could not dampen his enthusiasm at the quality of his result.

““Oh, my goodness, I’m so proud,” said Connor, who was the first New Zealand man to appear in a World Championships discus final. “Going into the competition (before qualification) ranked 15th in the world and having that drama around was I in or out of the final, what a cool first World Champs experience.

“I went into the final ranked 12th so my only goal was to have a lash and make the most of the experience. Technically I could have done a bit better, but the World Champs is all about giving it a good nudge and I think I did that. It has made me super hungry for Paris (Olympics).”

Olympic champion Daniel Stahl of Sweden secured the world title with a championship record throw of 71.46m.

There was disappointment in the women’s pole vault as all three competing New Zealand athletes – Eliza McCartney, Olivia McTaggart and Imogen Ayris – missed out on navigating a route to the final. Ayris, the Commonwealth bronze medallist, was the pick of the three Kiwis, clearing a best of 4.50m with her second attempt – within 3cm of her lifetime best. She made a valiant third time effort at 4.60m but could not quite clear that height to finish 18th overall.  

Ayris said: “I’m stoked. It would have been nice to make the final but to jump 4.50m and not make the final shows where women’s pole vault is at right now. I couldn’t be happier, I jumped super well. My third attempt at 4.60m was potentially one of the best jumps I’ve ever done, so we are on track for something big and to have 4.50m as a benchmark is awesome.”

Finishing 24th McTaggart cleared her opening height of 4.35m but found 4.50m beyond her today and was a little non-plussed at her performance.

The 23-year-old Aucklander, who set her PB of 4.71m in March, said: “It’s heartbreaking but that’s sport. One of the disappointing things I feel is that I was mentally in a really good space, so to not be jumping those heights is quite confusing at the moment. I few little things didn’t go my way but that is sport, and I just need to move on.”

Eliza McCartney, the world number two following her sensational 4.85m effort in Schifflange, Luxembourg last month, was struggling with on Achilles issue and no-marked at her opening height of 4.50m.

McCartney, the 2016 Rio Olympic medallist who has enjoyed a resurgence back into world-class this year after several year of injury frustration, said: “Obviously it is not a good night. A couple of weeks ago I had a flare up with my Achilles. It has been on and off during the year and unfortunately it happened right before World Champs. I gave it my best shot. I could have retired but I thought I would give it a go and see what happened, but after that second attempt, which was me putting everything I could into it, I pulled up short. It was just too much tonight and that can, unfortunately, happen in sport.”

World and Olympic champion Katie Moon of the USA was one of four women to have a perfect record up to and including 4.65m to top the qualifiers for the final on Thursday.

There was heartbreak for Portia Bing as she was eliminated from the first round of the women’s 400m hurdles, after unfortunately clipping hurdle nine and crashing to the track. The 30-year-old Kiwi, who reached the semifinals in this event at the 2022 World Championships, was some way down on the qualification positions when she suffered her mishap, but she bravely rose from the track to cross the line eighth in a time of 1:06.97.

The heat win was secured by Jamaica’s Rushell Clayton in 53.97 ahead of former world and Olympic champion Dalilah Muhammad of the USA (54.21), who eased into the semifinals. Dutch athlete Femke Bol topped the qualifiers in 53.39.

A further five New Zealand athletes compete on Day 4 of the World Athletics Championships in Budapest on Wednesday (23 August).

All times NZ

05.28 – Men’s 800m First Round Heat two – Brad Mathas

06:00 – Men’s 800m First Round Heat six – James Preston 

07.42 – Men’s 3000m steeplechase final – George Beamish

20:20 – Women’s javelin qualification Group A – Tori Peeters – TBC

21:55 – Women’s javelin qualification Group B – Tori Peeters – TBC

22.05 – Women’s 200m heats – Georgia Hulls

*Follow timetable/results here

*Profiles of all 19 New Zealand athletes competing in Budapest plus a full schedule of when the Kiwis are competing can be seen here