News & Updates

26 May 2024 • Track and Field

Preston lowers iconic Sir Peter Snell national 800m record

James Preston claims the national 800m mark in Pfungstadt, Germany. Credit: (Alisha Lovrich)

On an historic day for New Zealand middle-distance running James Preston erased the 62-year-old national 800m record of Sir Peter Snell in Pfungstadt, Germany and George Beamish climbed to number two on the all-time New Zealand mile lists – and within 0.01 of the 42-year-old national record of Sir John Walker – at the Eugene Diamond League.

Preston recorded a stunning 1:44.04 in Pfungstadt, Germany to comfortably dip below the Olympic entry standard mark for Paris and advance his career into a new realm.

In an outstanding display of middle-distance running, the 27-year-old Wellington-based athlete claimed a dominant victory from fellow Kiwi Brad Mathas – wiping 0.83 from his previous PB set at the 2024 Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships in Wellington in March.

Preston’s mark set at the Merck Running Gala was also comfortably below the Olympic entry standard of 1:44.70.

Sir Peter Snell’s mark had been the longest standing New Zealand athletics record in the books. His 1:44.3 was set on a grass track in Christchurch back in 1962 for what was a then world record mark.

On a memorable day for New Zealand middle-distance running, Mathas clocked 1;45.80 – within 0.05 of his lifetime best to claim second.

An elated Preston said: “I feel an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and relief. I was nervous about trying to run the qualifier because opportunities can be hard to come by, so to be able to run (the Olympic entry standard) takes a weight off my shoulders. It is also really satisfying that my team and I can put together the plan and execute it.

“I had a really strong pacemaker organised and the plan was to go through 400m in 50.5 and 600m in 1:16 because that would set me up well to get under the qualifying mark. In terms of how the race played out, it was almost exactly like. We hit 400m in 50.1 and I then just had to keep rolling with whatever I had. The last 50m was tough but I got it done.

“The (Olympic) entry standard is the main thing for me with the record being a bonus. Everything has been geared up in terms of trying to qualify, but to be able to do that makes our plan for the next couple of months a wee bit easier and less stressful around the build up.

“This performance sets me up for the next couple of months. We aren’t as focused on running the standard right now, so hopefully I’ll get in some more competitions and run a wee bit faster.

“In terms of Snell’s record, he did so much for middle-distance running in New Zealand the best way to honour what he did was to try and better it, so to be able to do that is amazing. I’m hoping that someone will come along and break my record one day and better what I’ve done.

At the Eugene Diamond League, George Beamish produced an outstanding run in the Bowerman Mile to place eighth in 3:49.09 – within 0.01 of the national record set by Sir John Walker in Oslo in 1982.

In a world-class race, won by Great Britain’s world 1500m champion Josh Kerr in a world-leading mark of 3:45.34, Beamish stuck his task well and also gained an Olympic entry standard mark for the 1500m.

The 27-year-old Kiwi and World Indoor 1500m champion has been selected to compete in the 3000m steeplechase at the Paris Olympics but has Olympic entry standard marks in three events – the 1500m, 5000m and 3000m steeplechase.

Tom Walsh, the other Kiwi in action at the Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, finished fifth in the men’s shot put with a best throw of 21.33m. Joe Kovacs of the US claimed victory in a monster world leading throw of 23.13m.

Results from Pfungstadt here

Results from the Eugene Diamond League here