News & Updates

11 April 2024 • Track and Field

Versatile Angus hopes to shine at Aussie Champs

Ahead of the Australian Championships in Adelaide we put the spotlight on New Zealand senior decathlon champion Angus Lyver who enjoyed a very special Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships in Wellington.

If we ran a poll for athlete of the 2024 Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships, it would be difficult to argue against Angus Lyver.

The combined eventer most caught the eye by blitzing to a stunning gold in the senior men’s 200m but across a gruelling three days of competition he was also rewarded with a 4x100m silver as part of the Canterbury quartet and further bronze medals in the senior men’s long jump, javelin and 4x400m.

The fact that three of these medals (200m, javelin and 4x400m) were achieved in a little over an hour made the display even more impressive and he now moves on to the Australian Championships in Adelaide seeking a strong showing in the decathlon – his number priority.

“I came into nationals not expecting any medals to be honest, so I’m super stoked,” explains the modest athlete. “To win the 200m was right up there (as one of my career highlights). I had no real expectations and knew it would be hard up against Lex (Revell-Lewis), Tommy (Te Puni), Cody (Wilson) and a couple of other top guys. It didn’t really click for a while that I had won – it was pretty cool.”

His overall set of results in Wellington made for impressive reading and certainly bode well for the combined events – where he has made huge progress under the coaching guidance of James Sandilands over the past 12 months. With the imminent Australian Championships and then the Oceania Athletics Championships in Fiji in June his next two big targets it will be exciting to see how the young talent performs as he continues his exciting decathlon development.

Raised in Palmerston North – he has a non-identical twin brother, Rian – he first took up athletics at the local Palmerston North Athletics club around the age of “10 or 11” but admits initially he was no world beater.

“I was never any good in those early days,” he explains. “I started off as a middle-distance runner and high jumper and I only started to improve as I got a little bit taller and switched to sprinting.”

It was his good fortune that his talent while attending Palmerston North Boys’ High School was identified by Robin “Digger” Doyle and he was encouraged to train more seriously at Palmerston North Athletics and Harriers Club.

Coached by George McConachy and Anne Thomson his talents gravitated towards the 200m and long jump. The question is why specifically those two events?

“While I didn’t want to do middle-distance anymore, I was also quite tall and lanky, so I didn’t have a good enough start for the 100m – which is still a problem today. Over time I fell in love with the 200m. As for long jump I remember jumping 6.30m as a Year 11 student and my jumps coach (Anne) saying, ‘okay, we can work with that.”

Throughout his school years he focused on the two events, enjoying great success. In 2019 he secured the junior boys 200m gold and long jump silver at the New Zealand Secondary Schools

Athletics Championships. The following year he claimed long jump silver and 200m bronze at the 2020 edition in Tauranga to further underline his potential across both disciplines.

The decathlon was to come along a little later after discovering an ability to throw the javelin. A keen cricketer he knew he possessed a strong throwing arm, so on little more than a whim he picked up a javelin at a regional competition and in Angus’ words “it felt alright.” Given his background as a sprinter, jumper it felt a natural move to try his hand as a combined eventer.

With the full support of his family, he entered the 2022 New Zealand U20 Combined Events Championships which were held in Auckland. Loving every minute of the experience he took out the national U20 title with a cumulative score of 6191pts and was instantly hooked.

“There is something about combined events and being out with the same guys competing all day,” he muses. “The fact that you are all battling the same level of pain means you have a shared level of respect for one another.”

In 2023 he retained his national U20 crown in Whanganui with a massive new personal best of 6595pts before five weeks later taking another giant leap forward with a combined 7013pts total to place first in the U20 decathlon at the Australian Championships in Brisbane.

Coached at that time by George and Anne he praises their contribution and believes the giant decathlon gains were down to a number of factors.

“I made those big improvements because I got more used to the mental game of decathlon,” he explains. “I got used to the quick turnaround of events and I learned to better control my eating. To compete at the Aussie Champs in a big stadium up against a bunch of talented guys also helped as well.”

Keen to explore the possibility of fulfilling his combined events potential 12 months ago he decided to make the switch to Christchurch to be coached James Sandilands. In a talented group spearheaded by World Indoor high jump champion Hamish Kerr it was a great opportunity to take the next step in his combined events journey.

“Anne and George did an awesome job and if I had just focused on the 200m and long jump I might still be in Palmy,” he explains. “But I knew to develop as a multi-eventer, I needed more help. James said he’d love to work with me and after putting in a big winter training block I haven’t looked back. Everything has gone like clockwork.”

The biggest change in his training regime has been the regular introduction of gym work while the double session days in the winter have also helped build strength and hone technique.

Combining training with studying a Bachelor of Sport at the University of Canterbury and working a couple of days a week as part of the customer service team for a campervan rental company does require a juggling act and it is far from easy.

But working alongside top-class athlete such as Hamish Kerr as well as New Zealand senior heptathlon champion Maddie Wilson has been “hugely motivating” and he knew the fruits of his labour were starting to pay dividends when he blitzed to a 200m PB of 21.10 in an interclub event last December.

“I had just come off a niggle and I hadn’t been running so well, so to run the fastest I’ve ever run got me thinking got me thinking the season could be pretty serious,” he explains.

This was then borne out at the New Zealand Combined Events Championships in Dunedin. While he was gutted his training partner and defending senior men’s decathlon champion Max Attwell had to pull out after just one event – competing in his first senior decathlon he claimed gold with a score of 7020pts in excess his best total as an U20 athlete – a feat more impressive when we consider the total was achieved with the senior implements.

“To get an absolute PB in my first senior decathlon was a big surprise to me,” he says. “The big difference was my hurdles, which has pretty much been my kryptonite up until the last few months.”

Moving on to the Jennian Homes New Zealand Track & Field Championships in Wellington he admits to not having any major expectations. However, elated to win long jump bronze – courtesy of a sixth round PB of 7.36m on day two of the event set the right tone. He was further boosted when grabbing a silver medal in the men’s 4x100m relay before harvesting three medals in a little over 60 minutes on the fourth and final day of the championships at Newtown Park.

Forced to pass his first two throws in the men’s javelin because it clashed with the 200m final – and handing his javelin spikes to Douw Botes prior to the comp – he blasted to half-lap glory before casually walking straight from the track to the runway to take his third round throw in the javelin.

“My first throw was atrocious (41.24m) and then threw up in a drain, felt a bit better and composed myself with three rounds to go,” he recalls.

Gradually improving throughout the competition – a 55.71m effort in the final round hauled him to bronze for what he describes as his “bonus medal” before a little later running the first leg of the men’s 4x400m for Canterbury. Despite mistiming his pacing – running “a pedestrian” first 200m – he managed to help his team win bronze to bank a fifth national medal in Wellington.

“It was a feeling I’d never experienced before,” he explains. “I was over the moon but in a world of pain.”

Believing he can make major improvements in his weaker events – the 110m hurdles, shot and pole vault in particular – and only celebrating his 20th birthday later this month, he moves on to the Australian Championships and then the Oceania Championships full of optimism.

“I’m not too sure of my aims in Aussie,” he admits. “It will be my first senior decathlon there so I just hope to go over there and learn as much as I can. In some ways the results will take care of itself.”

Hoping to build on that experience at the Oceania Championships in Fiji he has set some longer-term goals with competing in an Olympic decathlon “the pinnacle.”

Yet whatever happens he hopes to retain that joy for the sport he has had for so much of his career.

“Enjoying what you do helps with the motivation because without that enjoyment the sport would be very difficult,” he says. “Thanks to the changes James has made over the past year and my training partners I think I’ve found out a lot about myself.”

***Angus competes in the men’s decathlon at the 2024 Australian Championships in Adelaide on Friday-Saturday 12-13 April. Follow the live results via Roster Athletics