College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand
Hawke's Bay shotputter Nick Palmer has been named New Zealand team flag bearer for the Bahamas 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games.
The 17 year old is the New Zealand 2017 Youth Men’s champion and also won the Youth Men’s division at the 2017 Australian National Athletics Championships. Palmer is ranked third for under 20’s in Australasia and has a personal best of 19.97m, which he hopes to better in the Bahamas.
The year 12 Karamu High School student is honoured to have been named flag bearer and says he plans to represent New Zealand with pride on and off the field.
“This is the biggest thing that I’ve done so I’m pretty happy with this, I'm very proud to be here and hopefully I can bring a gold home for New Zealand," Palmer said.
“It’s something not many people get to do, so to get to do it at my age and at one of the highest levels you can is pretty special."
New Zealand Team Athlete Support Leader Kristy Hill says Palmer was chosen not just because of his outstanding athletic record but also because of the discipline and leadership he displays across the board.
“Nick has a very impressive ability to excel at a range of disciplines while being a team player and an inspiration to others”, Kristy said.
“He exemplifies all the attributes that are key to being both a successful athlete and one New Zealand can be proud of. He has a big future ahead of him.”
The announcement was made at a function held for the New Zealand team in the Bahamas which was attended by around 60 team members and supporters.
Palmer was nominated by Athletics New Zealand and selected by Athlete Support Leader Kristy Hill and New Zealand Olympic Committee Team Services Co-ordinator Toni Kidwell.
Ahead of the Commonwealth Youth Games the Hastings Athletic Club Member was training six days a week, often twice a day, while still maintaining his studies. He is coached by Dale Stevenson who also coaches Olympic Bronze medallist Tom Walsh.
Outside sport Palmer is a leader at school and in cultural activities. He is a member of Karamu High School Elite Choir and is a regular performer in groups on vocals and guitar.
Palmer believes he’ll gain invaluable experience from competing in a multi-sport environment against some of the best throwers in the world. His ultimate goal is to compete at the Olympic Games.
“This is my future, I want to go the highest you can in New Zealand, I want a push at being the best in the world, I don’t think any good sportsperson out there doesn’t want to be the best in the world," Palmer said.
As flag bearer Palmer will lead the 33 strong New Zealand team at the opening ceremony on the evening of Tuesday July 18th (Bahamas time).
From June 28 to July 1, New Zealand athletes won 34 titles at the Oceania Area Athletics Championships in Suva and a total of 74 medals across the six age grades and Para events.
Cameron Miller from Otago Boys’ High School was a convincing victor in the Under-18 decathlon, so much so he was hopeful for stiffer competition.
“It was a little bit disappointing to be honest. The standard of competition was like a National event in New Zealand. I was hoping there would be someone at the same level or slightly better than me,” Miller observes.
Miller won the gold medal by over 1100 points. Luke Hunter from Australia proved less competitive than expected and even the Fijian weather was manageable.
“It was overcast and about 25 degrees on the days of the competition. I thought it would be hotter, but am glad it wasn’t,” Miller reveals.
Miller is ranked number 1 nationally after winning the NZ Under 18 Combined title in February scoring 5691 points, ahead of Matthew Aucamp (Elim Christian College) and Jared Neighbours (Papanui High School).
Going into the final event Cameron was in third 55 points behind leader Jared and 46 behind Matthew. But a 4:30.59 1500m saw Cameron safely through for the title.
Miller will attend the National Secondary School championships in Hastings in December and could compete in the long jump, high jump, discus and 400m. There is no heptathlon so his next challenge is to improve his National senior ranking which give or take some weight and height adjustments is in the top five.
“My big work on is pole vault. I have jumped a 2.90 in training, but my best recorded jump is 2.70 which is terrible. I don’t really enjoy pole vault, but I am working hard to change that,” Miller assesses.
Miller plays third XV rugby in the winter. In 2016, he accidentally dislocated his shoulder in a play fight with a mate.
“I pushed my friend so in retaliation he tugged my arm and the shoulder popped out. It took a while to recover,” Miller laughs.
Miller is coached by Brent Ward (track) and Dave McNeil (throwing). He is grateful for the support of his parents as well.
Miller is a focused academic and intends to study health science and medicine science at Otago University next year.
Miller’s Personal Best’s
Long Jump: 6.59m
Shot Put: 11.19m
High Jump: 1.87m
110m Hurdles: 16.6s
Pole Vault: 2.70m
Samuel Marsden Collegiate School, Wellington, Year 12 high jumper Imogen Skelton joins the 34-strong New Zealand squad in the Bahamas later this month for the Youth Commonwealth Games.
Imogen is one of 11 young kiwis in the Track and Field team, and the only athlete representing Wellington. College Sport Media caught up with Imogen ahead of the trip.
What events are you entered you are entered in and what are your expectations?
I am entered in both the high jump and 800m; however I am just going to be doing the high jump so that I can focus solely on that in order to get the best results possible. I am not sure what to expect seeing as this is my first international athletics competition, but I am hoping to get a personal best.
Is this first time you will be pulling on the black singlet and representing New Zealand?
Last year I represented New Zealand Secondary Schools in cross country at the Australian Cross Country Champs. I don’t think I performed at my best at this event, but it was a really great experience.
Was selection in this team something you had been working towards for some time, was this your goal?
I have always wanted to represent New Zealand in athletics, and so when I found out about the opportunity of being selected for this team it was definitely a goal of mine.
How and when did you qualify for the YCG? Was there a target you had to reach in both the High Jump and 800m?
I found out that I had been selected on 8 May. There were no qualifying standards set by Athletics New Zealand, which made it quite hard to know what to aim for in order to qualify. You just had to apply for the team and then the decisions as to who were selected were made by Athletics NZ and the NZOC, and were based off of performances throughout the season and at the national champs.
Speaking of the two events you are in, are high jump and 800m slightly contrasting events?
Yes they are quite contrasting events. I have always done lots of different events since I was young and I really enjoy both and so have carried on doing both. It is quite challenging to train and compete in the two, so I normally focus on just one for a period of time depending on what competitions I have coming up.
You’ll be coming from the middle of a NZ (Wellington) winter into the hot climate of the Bahamas, how is your training going at the moment and what are you doing training-wise?
The change in climate will definitely be a shock to the system, but I always jump better when it is warm, and I have plenty of time to acclimatise before I compete. So I am looking forward to the hot weather. My training is going well at the moment, I have been doing a mix of strength, speed and technique based training sessions.
What events have you most recently been competing in?
I have done a few of the school cross country events such as the CSW and NZSS cross country champs, however I have just been doing them for fun and haven’t actually been training for them as the long distance training doesn’t have many benefits for high jump.
How did you get into athletics, at what age or competition did you discover you could jump high and run fast?
I realised that I was good at athletics at primary school in about year 4 when I won many of the events at the school athletics day and cross country. I then joined Wellington Harrier Athletics Club when I was 10 and have been doing athletics ever since.
When you return from the YCT what will be your next challenge?
When I return from the Bahamas I will begin preparing for the summer athletics season. I will probably do a few of the local interclubs when the track season starts but the main focus for the rest of this year will be the NZSS Championships.
Do you play other sports, socially or competitively?
I just do athletics in terms of sport, but I also do dancing twice a week.
Connor Bell concedes he used to be a fat kid who spent all day on his Play Station. A handful of years later the Westlake Boys’ High School student heads to the Junior Commonwealth Games in the Bahamas as the top ranked Under-17 discus thrower in the world.
Bell has a personal best of 63.93m with a 1.5kg discus. His nearest rival from Great Britain has thrown 63.48m. The present games record is 64.14m.
“My grandad and Dad were both good athletes. Dad was a sprint champion at Dilworth College and ran a low 11 seconds for the 100m. One day I turned up to a discus competition and won by a big margin. I was recognised by a club coach and got into it after that,” Bell recalls of his original involvement in the sport.
Bell hails from Kaukapakapa just north of Auckland. He might have been harsh on himself when he said he was idle. He had tried a range of sports including football, rugby, cricket and even motocross attempting to find his niche.
“I had a couple of concussions in motocross and even managed to split a helmet open in a crash so I guess that wasn’t going to work,” Bell laughs.
It’s almost a laughing matter how far ahead of the discus throwing competition Bell is in New Zealand. The National Under-18 and 20 champion won the intermediate National Secondary Schools title in December by over 20-metres. He is also the Australian Under-18 champion.
How does Bell avoid complacency?
“I am training six times a week and always looking to improve. I guess you are competing against yourself sometimes, but I enjoy the challenge of always trying to improve.”
Any slacking won’t be tolerated by Bell’s coach, two-time Olympic shot-put champion Dame Valerie Adams. Bell has a special relationship with the three times Halberg award winner.
“Val is on a break from competition because she is pregnant, meaning I get to see her three times a week. That is awesome. She is so relatable, generous, passionate and professional.”
Bell has been working with Adams for the best part of a year after a connection with a previous coach.
Bell is unconcerned about the searing heat in the Bahamas saying he enjoys hot weather and his throw only takes a few seconds anyway.
The Junior Commonwealth Games are held from July 19-23.
“The first time I ran it I looked like I had been for a swim. I was able to squeeze a small puddle of sweat from my clothes,” Nick Moulai recalls of his first attempt running on a treadmill in a room surrounded by heat pumps delivering sweltering calidity.
Moulai is acclimatising himself for the sun of the Bahamas where he is headed on July 14 for the Junior Commonwealth Games. The Year 13 from St. Bede’s College, Christchurch will represent New Zealand in the 1500m and 3000m.
“I go to the treadmill twice a week now and can last over half an hour, but it’s pretty tough.” Moulai concedes.
Moulai earned the right to build up such duress at the National Secondary Schools Track and Field Championships in Auckland in December last year. He won the 3000m with a time of 8min 16.77sec, shattering a nine-year-old national record.
Moulai hasn’t been particularly active on the track since because there really isn’t a track in Christchurch he can train on during the winter, but is confident he can “build up the legs quickly.”
“There is a track in Timaru I have been to and will do so again. I will also find a track in the Bahamas,” Moulai assures.
Moulai’s winning time in the 3000m in December was more than 35 seconds faster than his time over 3000m at the same event in 2015. Before the start of the American and European seasons this year, Moulai was ranked first and third in the world for the under 17 age-bracket in the 1500m and 3000m respectively.
“I think I am ninth in the 1500m now. I was looking at the winning times last year and a Kenyan ran something like 3:39 which is world class and about ten seconds quicker than me. I will give it my best,” Moulai guarantees.
Moulai is an asthma sufferer making running in the winter with the cooler air tough. However, at the recent National Secondary Schools cross country championships he showed he was an all-season runner finishing third in an arduous race.
“I wanted to win, but you can’t all the time. Sam Tanner deserved his victory. Sam ran a smart race conserving energy at the start and picking his time to kick ahead. It was a narrow track and there was a lot of pushing and shoving which wasn’t ideal, but I guess I was pretty happy to medal.” Moulai reflects.
Moulai is aiming for a podium finish in the Bahamas and is still fundraising to reach the $6,000 required to go. His brother Tom is the National Secondary Schools 800m champion. Both boys aspire a US college scholarship next year.
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand