News & Updates

3 February 2023 • Track and Field

Sprint ace Te Puni targets more success in Wellington

Tommy Te Puni has made huge breakthroughs in the 200m and 400m this season and at Capital Classic on Friday is targeting the 100m and 200m. Credit: (Alisha Lovrich).

If the most versatile female sprinter in New Zealand at the moment is Rosie Elliott, then there is a compelling case to say on the men’s side that honour belongs to Tommy Te Puni.

The 20-year-old North Harbour Bays athlete currently tops the New Zealand rankings for the 400m (47.23) sits number three for the 200m (21.16) and with a PB of 10.70 – recorded at Night of 5s in March last year – the athlete who stands at 6ft 5ins tall is also very competitive over 100m.

Tommy next turns his attention to the Team Ledger Harcourts Capital Classic in Wellington today (Friday 3 February) looking to make his mark over the 100m and the 200m and continue his excellent start to the campaign.

“The season has gone pretty well, I just want the opportunity to run in better conditions, which I hope we’ll experience in the coming weeks. In Capital, I have some good opposition in the likes of Hamish Gill and Cody Wilson, so I hope to produce some good times.

The son of two-time former Commonwealth Games high jump representative Roger Te Puni, Tommy has found sprinting his calling and he enjoyed an eye-catching age-group career winning back-to-back New Zealand U20 100m and 200m sprint doubles in 2020 and 2021.

Yet his career suffered a setback from August 2021 after an Achilles injury badly hampered his preparation and he only returned to training at full speed one week before the Potts Classic in January 2022.

Despite the frustration of the injury and limited preparation he bounced back well to place fifth in the senior men’s 100m final at the 2022 Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships and capped his season with that 10.70 PB at AUT Millennium in March. It was a demanding period for the Auckland sprinter but one he helped negotiate thanks to the skill and experience of his coach, Elena Brown.

“Elena did a really good job with the limited time I had to prepare,” he insists. “To run a (100m) PB having had most of the winter without full training was really good.”

Thankfully, Tommy encountered no such issues during the winter of 2022. Given an exercise programme by Athletics NZ Medical Director Dan Exeter to help strengthen the Achilles he has faced no such further injury concerns, and that trouble-free build up has been a major factor in his excellent form so far this summer.

“It has been my first winter without injury, and also my first full winter of sprint specific training,” he explains. “I think I’ve benefited from having consistently good training in the bank.”

The first sign of his improved form arrived in December in Pakuranga – when in a rare outing over 400m he shattered his PB by more than a second-and-a-half to run 47.52 in far from ideal conditions. Then at Potts Classic in Hastings – in again far from perfect weather – he trimmed a further 0.29 from this time, which further solidified his huge potential over the one-lap distance.

“I normally do a 400m every couple of years. I don’t specifically train for the 400m,” he says. “I lack experience in terms of the race planning but I’m happy with how it has gone. I think I can get deep into the 46s (seconds) in some more favourable conditions.”

His 400m form given his lack of experience is hugely exciting. To put this into context Australian-based Kiwi Liam Webb was the number one 400m Kiwi last season with a best of 46.96 and the 25-year-old New Zealand men’s 400m record set by Shaun Farrell of 46.09 does not look mission impossible given Tommy’s age and scope to improve.

Yet despite the anticipation around his ability over the quarter-mile distance it needs to be remembered that in soggy conditions at Cooks Classic he scampered to a rapid 21.16 (+1.8) – scalping a sizeable 0.26 from his lifetime. And in the short term the 200m remains his number one priority.

“Right now, I just hope to continue to improve my flat speed which in the future will help my 400m,” adds Tommy, who has future aspirations to make a high performance squad. “If you look at the top 400m runners globally many can run at least a 10.2 100m and many are close to, if not running, a sub-20-second 200m. I aim to focus on continuing to develop my speed over the shorter distances before transferring to the 400m.”

At the Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championship the programme makes doubling in the 200m and 400m challenging, so he is likely to focus on the half-lap event. Beyond that his future looks rosy.

“There are still so many areas I can improve on, I’ve not set a limit on it.”

**Team Ledger Harcourts Capital Classic start lists here

***Team Ledger Harcourts Capital Classic full programme here  

***Team Ledger Harcourts Capital Classic results here

***Access the livestream from 4pm here