News & Updates

3 August 2022 • Track and Field

Kiwis enjoy flawless qualification session in Birmingham

(Photo: Alisha Lovrich)

All three New Zealand athletes successfully advanced from qualification as the team made an eye-catching start on the opening morning of the track and field programme at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

On an overcast day at the revamped Alexandra Stadium, Zoe Hobbs served up a dazzling display of sprinting from the outside lane to advance into the semi-finals of the women’s 100m by placing second in a blistering 11.09.

The 24-year-old Aucklander, who ran her Oceania record of 11.08 at last month’s World Championships, defied any nerves she may have felt after Tanzanian Winifrida Makenji was disqualified for false starting four lanes to her inside, by getting away to a slick start and quickly coming to the fore.

Running a hugely impressive middle phase of the race she maintained her form to the finish to cross the line 0.10 behind Nigerian Nzubechi Grace Nwokocha. Across seven first round heats, the Taranaki-raised Hobbs recorded the fifth fastest time overall. Nwokocha topped the qualifiers alongside Jamaica’s Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah of Jamaica, who also registered 10.99 in her heat.

Zoe, who has sensationally posted five New Zealand records since December 2021 and is the first Kiwi woman to feature in a women’s 100m at a Commonwealth Games for 28 years, said: “I wanted to relax throughout the race, and I think I did until tensing up a towards the end. You never know where you are running in lane eight, I’m just stoked to make it through.

“The false start (of Makenji) does make it you more nervous, and I never actually saw the false start, so you never quite know (who committed the false start).

“My form turned towards the end. I need to compose myself and get used to being in this environment (with a big crowd). It puts you on edge a bit more, but now I’ve done the heat I can be more relaxed going into the semi-final.”

The semi-finals take place at 6.35am on Thursday 4 August.

Maddi Wesche cruised into the final of the women’s shot put with the minimum of fuss as her first attempt of 18.08m ensured the New Zealand champion banked an automatic qualification spot to place third overall.

The 23-year-old Aucklander is in red hot form having hurled the 4kg shot out to a personal best of 19.50m at the World Championships last month, where she placed seventh.

Sauntering into the shot circle today she looked to be throwing well within herself and let out a relaxed smile knowing it was job done after hurling the shot 8cm beyond the automatic standard.

The three key protagonists all impressed in qualification led by defending champion Danniel Thomas-Dodd of Jamaica (18.42m) and World Championship fourth placer Sarah Mitton of Canada (18.24m) to rubber stamp their spot in the final.

Maddi said of qualification: “It felt good. It was always the plan to getting the (automatic) standard, was definitely something I knew I could achieve, and I was happy I got it.

“I am feeling good, I think the World Championships was a good warm up for Comm Games. This is probably my first time I’ve had a packed out stadium, I am just living off it and thriving.”

On wearing the Prada sunglasses she added: “I don’t know if it is the weather for sunnies, but it is my good luck charm in Tokyo, so I had to keep them!”

The eagerly awaited final takes place at 7.05am on Thursday (4 August).

Connor Bell kept his nerve to fire the discus out to 59.47m with his third round throw to book his spot in the final during an edgy qualification session.

The 21-year-old Aucklander, a former Youth Olympic champion, opened his competition with a below par 53.77m before registering a mark 12cm inferior with his second effort.

Sitting in 13th and one place outside of a final spot leading into this third and last throw, he maintained his composure under intense pressure and let out a yelp of joy after closing in on the 60m mark with his final effort to qualify sixth.

Jamaican Travis Smikle with a best of 64.90m led the qualifiers for the final which takes place at 7.35am on Friday 5 August. 

Connor said “It was a wild experience, walking in a day one morning session to a packed stadium, noisy and being around athletes I’ve seen on the TV growing up. It was a bit like being a kid in a candy shop! Managing some of that was challenging, but I had to find my rhythm and make sure I did one big throw. I knew after two rounds those throws weren’t going to cut it.

“I’m really proud of how I gathered myself and how I produced that crunch throw in that last round.”

***Two Kiwis will feature in the women’s pole vault final in the evening session of day one of the Commonwealth Games as training partners Olivia McTaggart and Imogen Ayris take to the runway at 6.05am (Wednesday 3 August).

For full results go here