News & Updates

18 April 2024 • High Performance

Top of the Cropp

Jonah Cropp enroute to the national 10,000m track race walking title in Wellington. Credit: (Alisha Lovrich)

Teenage race walker Jonah Cropp has enjoyed a record-breaking 2024. Ahead of his appearance at the 2024 World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships on Sunday we chat to the Cantabrian about his outstanding year and hopes for the futures.

From Norman Read through to Craig Barrett and more recently the accomplishments of Quentin Rew and Alana Barber, New Zealand has long held a rich walking tradition.

And with New Zealand sending a promising five-strong team to the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships in Antalya, Turkey on Sunday the quintet featuring teenage talent Jonah Cropp appear well equipped for future success.

The 18-year-old Christchurch-based athlete has enjoyed an outstanding domestic campaign carving huge chunks from his PBs to set national U19 and U20 on the track records over the 3000m, 5000m and 10,000m distance.

While domestically Jonah has excelled, Sunday will see the national U20 3000m and 10,000m track walk champion take the next step in his race walking development when he lines up in the U20 10km race in Antalya against the best global race walkers in his age group.

“My legs are feeling stronger than ever, and I’m looking forward to Turkey,” adds Jonah, a psychology student at the University of Canterbury. “I’ve only ever seen most of these guys, like the top Asian and European race walkers on TV, so it will be great to finally see them in action.”

Taking up the sport at the age of eight, Jonah admitted he initially struggled to find his calling. Too skinny to throw far and lacking the speed to keep up with the leading sprinters in his age group he discovered race walking at the age of ten.

“I remember one former race walker came to the club and she showed us how to race walk,” explains Jonah, a member of Sumner Running Club. “I did race walking for the first time that Saturday and I haven’t stopped since! I loved how it was both a niche sport but also overwhelmingly competitive.”

Training not much more than once or twice a week and self-coached at the time he recalls some early promise when breaking the U12 Canterbury 1200m race walking record.

Yet it was only at the age of 14 and coming under the guidance of his first and so far only coach, Rozie Robinson, did his race walking career really start to take off.

Training “in a proper way” for the first time, Jonah gradually stepped up his training from “barely 20km a week” to today a much more structured 60-70km a week.

Within weeks of being coached by Rozie he set a Canterbury U14 1600m race walking record and in 2021 claimed his first national medal when taking silver in the U20 3000m track walk in Hastings.

So how has Rozie aided his development?

“She gets along with everyone, she is funny, fun and kind and it able to push me very easily,” explains Jonah.

In 2022 the success continued as he took out national U18 track walk titles over 3000m and 5000m as well as 5km road gold and an U20 gold medal in the 10km track walk.

Yet it was winning a 5000m track walk bronze medal at the Oceania Championships in Mackay, Australia which proved his most significant accomplishment that year.

“It was after winning that medal I became totally hooked,” explains Jonah. “That is when I decided to give up football and other sports to total train for race walking.”

Training six days a week under Rozie’s guidance he since continued to accumulate nationals medals and last year the former St Andrews College student snared the U20 10km road walk title, the New Zealand Secondary Schools 3000m track walk crown as well as national silver medals in the 3000m and 10,000m track walks.

Yet he believes one of the most key contributory factors in his outstanding 2024 season arrived in January when spending a month based in Australia training with their leading international track walkers. Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Olympians, Rhydian Cowley and Kyle Swan and 2023 World Championships 20km race walk silver medallist

Jemima Montag proved an inspirational experience and he has emerged a much more rounded athlete.

“I came back from Australia having created some good training habits,” he explains. “I used to train but not always consistently. I would struggle with motivation but I spent the whole of January learning what it was like to train as a full-time athlete. I learned about recovery and icing and how to recover from double sessions.”

He climaxed his time in Aussie by race walking 44:47.59 in the Supernova meet in Canberra to take more than three-and-a-half minutes from his PB and since then has consistently shattered his previous best times to record a series of national age group records.

The streak began in Wellington when posting a national U19 and U20 3000m record at the Team Harcourts Ledger Capital Classic in 12:16.43 in early February before the following day lowering the national U19 5000m track walk record in 21:34.18 in his home city of Christchurch.

The U19 and U20 New Zealand 5000m track walk was next to tumble on 18 Feb as Jonah clocked 20:57.69 in Christchurch before he took more than a minute from his lifetime best to secure the national U19 and U20 10,000m track walk record in 43:41:07 at the Jennian Homes NZ Track & Field Championships in Wellington. In the capital he completed the U20 3000m and 10,000m track walk double.

It has been a sensational past couple of months or so for the Cantabrian, but does he have a personal highlight?

“I love all my records but for fun, I’d say the 3000m race walk because I’ve always really liked that distance,” he adds.

Swelled with confidence by his feats over the past three months or so his strengths are his “top end speed” – although he acknowledges his stamina still requires a lot of work.

Thanking Sumner Running Club, the Canterbury Race Walking Association, Race Walking New Zealand and Accessman for their financial support in his running quest next up on Sunday he faces the biggest challenge of his career to date in Antalya, so what does he hope to achieve?

“My aim is to go as fast as possible and get a PB,” he says. “I know I am up against a top, top field but the aim is to finish in the top 15, that would be the dream.”

Beyond the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships he has also achieved a 10,000m track walk performance standard time for the World U20 Championships in Lima, Peru where he hopes to secure selection and gain more crucial international experience.

While in the longer term he harbours some clear ambitions.

“I’d like to go as far as I can in the sport, the Olympics in 2028 is the goal but we’ll just have to see what happens because I don’t expect to peak until I’m aged in my 30s,” he adds.


****Jonah Cropp competes at 4pm (NZT) on Sunday in the men’s U20 10km race walk at the 2024 World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships in Antalya. For timetable and details go here