News & Updates

21 March 2022 • Track and Field

Julia makes her competitive return at the Night of 5s

Julia Ratcliffe makes her first competitive appearance since finishing ninth in the final of the women's hammer at the Tokyo Olympics at the Night of 5s on Wednesday. (Credit: Alisha Lovrich).

Making her eagerly awaited first competitive appearance since placing ninth at the Tokyo Olympic Games, Julia Ratcliffe is seeking to embrace the fun of the experience when taking to the hammer circle at the Daikin Night of 5s at AUT Millennium on Wednesday.

The Commonwealth hammer champion was one of the star performers in the Black Singlet last year but rather than take on a full domestic season, the 28-year-old has opted for a lengthy competitive break to recharge her batteries.

“The whole experience in Tokyo was awesome but the extended build up to Tokyo and the fact it took that extra year to get there was mentally draining,” admits Julia. “There was the stress of trying to avoid Covid, of coming back through MIQ, going straight back into lockdown and missing that time to celebrate with everybody, it was a real shame.

“I was really wary, I didn’t want to come back too soon and have to take a longer break later. I was trying to do the very best for my physical and mental health to make sure I’m in top form for when it counts – at World Championships and Commonwealth Games.”

Working as a financial markets analyst with the Reserve Bank acted as an important post-Tokyo stimulus for Julia, while she gradually started back training focusing on laying a strong foundation in the gym before over time re-introducing more throws into the programme.

Based down in Wellington since Tokyo, Julia returned to her native Hamilton around six weeks ago because of the Omicron outbreak in an effort to better stay safe.

“In Wellington I was living in a flat with quite a few people, so I was in an environment where if one person tested positive for Covid I would have to isolate. That would have meant I would not have had access to training facilities, so I put forward a plan to return back to Hamilton to move home and be with coach (and father) Dave, in a bit of a self-imposed lockdown.”

Feeling she was not quite physically ready to compete earlier in the domestic season she has selected the Night of 5s for her seasonal debut and she is more than comfortable in her decision.

“I was not quite ready for nationals but as the weather gets even colder it is harder for us throwers, so the next convenient competition was Night of 5s,” she adds. “I know from experience it is a great meet. It is the main Auckland High Performance hub and it generates a cool atmosphere under the lights.”

Julia says her Night of 5s appearance is likely to be her sole appearance during the domestic campaign and she has no plans to compete in Australia – instead focusing on a move north to settle in Auckland with her partner and build-up her preparations for both the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.  

While Julia’s compatriot and fellow Tokyo Olympian Lauren Bruce has enjoyed a successful domestic campaign, landing her maiden senior national hammer title earlier this month, the strength in depth of the event in New Zealand has been further bolstered by the development of Nicole Bradley.

This Aucklander has this season joined the 70m club – alongside Julia and Lauren – with the former saying she has been hugely excited by Nicole’s stellar season.

“One of the coolest things about my time in the sport is watching the women’s hammer grow, admits Julia. “To have three of us out there throwing over 70m is incredible. We could see three Black Singlets throwing in the women’s hammer at the Commonwealth Games later this year which is going to be magic.”

Nicole will be among Julia’s opposition at Night of 5s but given it will be her first competition for eight months what are her expectations at AUT Millennium?

“I hope to enjoy it,” she says. “There was so much pressure geared around making the team for the Olympics and making it is to the start line healthy. This season is much more about going out and having fun. This doesn’t mean I’m taking it any less seriously or putting in less effort, I’m just trying to take the pressure off – because that is when the magic happens. I’m just trying to stay relaxed and simply looking forward to throwing some hammers.”

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The event will also be livestreamed on Sky Sport Next. We will update via our social media channels on livestream links in due course.