News & Updates

19 January 2022 • Track and Field

Nicole makes successful return to the sport

Nicole Bradley competing at the 2020 Jennian Homes Track & Field Champs. (Credit: Alisha Lovrich)

Nicole Bradley became the third New Zealand woman in history to hurl the hammer beyond 70m in December. Ahead of Saturday’s Potts Classic in Hastings, Steve Landells caught up with the 29-year-old Aucklander to discuss her slightly unorthodox journey to the benchmark distance.

If we rewind back to the late-summer and autumn of 2021 then it would have been a little hard to comprehend how Nicole Bradley could become a 70m thrower.

Disillusioned with the sport after a difficult summer season she pulled the plug early on her domestic season and took time out of athletics to consider her future.

For more then 12 weeks retirement seemed a distinct possibility. Yet as the weeks turned into months, Nicole realised she missed the buzz of throwing the hammer, of challenging herself and keeping fit and healthy and in June she returned to training.

Fast forward another six months to December 4 and competing at the Virtual Throws Comp she hurled the 4kg ball out to 70.07m – a near three-metre PB.

“I never thought I could throw that far,” adds Nicole of the North Harbour Bays club. “It’s exciting to know I can actually throw 70m. It was a huge breakthrough for me.

“I’m always pumped to see Julia (Ratcliffe) and Lauren (Bruce) throw so far. To know I can be up there competing is incredible. Who would have thought three girls in New Zealand would be throwing over 70m?”

Nicole, a five-time New Zealand hammer champion, had endured a difficult 2020-21. A bout of reflux had triggered an injury. She was struggling to throw much beyond 60m and after the Capital Classic in Wellington last February she opted to prematurely end her season.

“I wasn’t enjoying it,” she explains. “I said to my coach (Mike Schofield) I don’t think it is a good idea I compete because I have a bad mindset. I’m taking a long break to see if I want to retire from hammer. I have a career as a radiographer but I thought maybe it’s not progressing as fast as I should be because of hammer.”

From February she upped her work hours from 24 per week to the standard 40 hours per week. For a period she focused solely on work and did not pick up a hammer. For 12 weeks Nicole insists she was “fairly certain I would retire.”

Yet over time she realised perhaps full-time work was not quite as fulfilling as she expected. Nicole missed the hammer and the lifestyle associated with the pursuit of athletics excellence.

“I missed the training and I missed challenging myself,” she says. “I missed eating a certain way to perform at my best, I missed the stretching and yoga and throwing in the sun. I missed all of that. I knew one day I could throw 70m in competition – that became the goal.”

Nicole returned to training with a renewed passion and fresh mindset, however, she admits she had a selfish motivation for re-engaging with the sport.

“I was not coming back for friends or family, for the sport or even my coach, I was coming back for me,” she explains. “I’m not a selfish person but since I’ve come back I’ve stood my ground a bit more.”

Since returning, Nicole says she has become more accountable for her training. Taking a greater responsibility for how to throw – under the guidance of Mike Schofield – has given her greater confident in the hammer circle.

A 72.50m throw in training with a 3.5kg implement the day before her appearance at the Virtual Throws Comp offered hope. Then at AUT Millennium she delivered spectacularly by five times going beyond her previous PB of 67.11m – highlighted by her second round effort of 70.07m.

“It was a shock, I was not expecting it, I thought is this for real?” she adds of the throw. “I knew I always could throw that distance, but previously I’ve lacked self-belief.”

Since her 70m breakthrough she has chosen to focus on training and has opted for Saturday’s Potts Classic in Hastings for her next competition, where she will face a strong field led by Oceania record-holder and Tokyo Olympian Lauren Bruce. 

Yet for the Potts Classic and beyond, Nicole has set some simple objectives.

“For me one of the most important things is to be happy to throw. I’m excited about Saturday and I’m hoping for a good comp. My goal is to throw 70m this year in a competition when it counts.”

For the full Potts Classic timetable go here

To follow the results for Potts Classic go here

For livestream coverage from 2.30pm on Saturday go here