News & Updates

17 August 2023 • High Performance

Lauren rediscovers joy for throwing

Lauren Bruce set an encouraging season’s best of 71.24m in her most recent competition in Madrid. Credit: (Alisha Lovrich).

New Zealand hammer thrower Lauren Bruce hopes finding a ‘happy Lauren’ can reap rewards when she takes to the circle for qualification at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest next Thursday.

After a challenging 2022 in which the Oceania record-holder missed out on the final of the World Athletics Championships in Eugene by an agonising 1cm and then did not advance to the final at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games after three foul throws – the Timaru-raised thrower believes she has re-emerged a more experienced and mature athlete and is ready to perform inside the National Athletics Centre in the Hungarian capital.

“I’ve been working towards being a happy Lauren and I know if I’m happier I am going to throw further,” she says. “If I’m stepping into the circle with a smile on my face then everything takes care of itself.”

Reflecting on her two performances in Eugene and Birmingham last year she identified where mistakes were made. Feeling her preparation was good leading into the World Championships – and desperately unlucky not to make the final with a best of 70.86m – with the benefit of hindsight she admits she did not give herself enough recovery time in the wake of her performance at Hayward Field.

“I know when I stepped into the circle at Commonwealth Games, I wasn’t my usual self,” she explains.

“I was gutted to miss out by 1cm at worlds and I almost tried to double down on that, which was the start of my undoing. I should have taken a couple of days to come out of Eugene to rest because of the physical and emotional cost of competing. I jumped straight back into training, and I was shattered by the time I got to Comm Games.”

Returning to training in Melbourne last September she found chatting to HPSNZ psychologist Sarah De Wattignar a huge help in addressing some pre-2022 identified behavioural shifts.

“The chance to chat through what happened with another female was a big thing for me, because my support team is heavily male dominated,” she says. “Towards one of our last sessions she asked me that it would be good if I looked at the footage from Birmingham. I wasn’t sure at first but having watched it, it was good for me and felt like I turned over a new leaf.”

Under the coaching of Dale Stevenson in Melbourne, Lauren endured a frustrating domestic season. Boasting a PB of 74.61m set in Tucson, Arizona in 2021 her best during the 2023 domestic campaign was 67.83m – set when winning the New Zealand title. Feeling a little “flat” following the retirements earlier this year of three-time Commonwealth Games hammer medallist Julia Ratcliffe and Nicole Bradley, who appeared for New Zealand at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and World Championships, instability in her life contributed to a below par domestic campaign earlier this year.

She acknowledged that since first relocating to Australia in March 2022, she had spent periods competing overseas and back in New Zealand and had flip-flopped between short-term rentals and housesitting in Melbourne. While not regretting anything she realised she needed to put down some roots and commit to living in a longer term-rental flat. Since doing so in March this has contributed to far great stability. Meanwhile, she has found taking on a 16-hour a week contract working at all boys’ school teaching primary school age kids ‘Ninja Warrior-style’ skills in the gymnasium very rewarding.

“It is quite different to what I’ve done in the past,” says Lauren, a former schoolgirl gymnast. “It is not pure gymnastics and working with boys has been a different ball game – it has been really cool.”

The 26-year-old Kiwi thrower has herself had a play around on the equipment which includes the Warped Wall – with the challenge to run to the top of a curved three-metre-high structure. She says: “I haven’t yet gotten up, but that is my goal before the end of the year.”

In a happier place, it is no coincidence that results have since improved. In Brisbane in June, she achieved her first 70 plus throw (registering 70.28m to win) of the season and most importantly met the performance conditions set by Athletics NZ for selection for the World Athletics Championships.

Relieved to attain that target, in her most recent competition in Madrid last month Lauren showed more signs she is returning to her best, placing third in a season’s best of 71.24m.

“It was one of the most fun comps I’ve ever done,” says Lauren. “It had a great atmosphere, and it was nice to out there with other girls throwing 70 metres plus. Competing in Madrid was really invigorating.”

The next challenge is Budapest where Lauren has set some clear goals.

“More than anything, I would love to be in the final,” she says. “It is something that has eluded me in every major I’ve done so far. I think I need to go into the qualifying and treat it as an individual competition. I just need to enjoy it and not get too uptight. I’m in a good space at the moment, taking it day by day and not looking too far ahead. I’m just trying to be happy Lauren.”

***Lauren competes in the qualification of the women’s hammer on Thursday 24 August. Qualification Group A takes place at 05.00 with Qualification Group B from 06.35.

***Watch all the action of the 2023 World Athletics Championships on Sky Sport 7.