Dominic Overend from Auckland Grammar School was the second youngest competitor in the 200-metres sprint at the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina recently.
Despite inexperience and little competitive preparation, Overend ran a personal best time of 21.44s to finish 11th in the two-stage event.
“I was pretty happy with my performance. I held my world ranking against some pretty amazing competition,” Overend said.
Overend ran 21.75s in stage one, leading for 150m before fading. Overend would again set the initial pace in stage two, but the reasons for his retreat down the leaderboard were different in each race.
“In the first race I panicked when I saw I was ahead of the favoured Jamaican and went a little away from my technique. In the second race I came up a little too early after I went round the bend then it was a pretty long race from there. Everyone kind of got past me in the last 40m which wasn’t ideal,” Overend reflects.
Leading the world’s best for a sustained period of time bodes well for the approaching New Zealand summer.
Overend is refusing to rest on his laurels.
“It’s a bit of a shock to the body after winter, running 200-metres competitively. It takes a while to hit full stride. I resume training tomorrow and have my first local race next week. I want to get in as many races as I can before Nationals. I believe I can go quicker,” Overend warns.
How much quicker can Overend go?
“I don’t like to put a figure on it. I like to take each race one race at a time. If everything goes well though my hard work will be reflected in my times,” Overend responded.
To have won gold in Argentina, Overend would have to have bettered 20.68s which was the time posted by champion Abdelaziz Mohamed from Qatar. Mohamed ran the 19th fasted time in the Under-18 age group ever and developed a formidable reputation quickly.
“He was definitely one of the favourites. He was really nice when I spoke to him. He’s coached by a top European which meant everything he did was real clinical,” Overend observed.
Mohamed enjoys vastly superior resourcing. According to Time magazine, Qatar, with its two million population, only 225,000 of which are Qatari citizens – will spend $200 billion on the 2022 Football World Cup alone.
Mohamed is a product of the Aspire Academy which is funded by huge oil money. Founded in 2004, Aspire screened 3.5 million young athletes across three continents in their first decade, cherry-picking some of the most promising athletics in several sports in the world.
While in Argentina, Overend got to enjoy some of the fruits of travel. He competed in a mixed team alongside seven boys from other countries to raise money for charity. He roomed with discus gold medalist Connor Bell and enjoyed regular sunshine, local cuisine and the support of a tight-knit New Zealand team.
Other New Zealanders to compete in athletics at the Youth Commonwealth games were Connor Bell and Murdoch McIntyre (both Westlake Boys’ High School), Hannah O’Connor (Sacred Heart, New Plymouth) and Kayla Goodwin (Sacred Heart, Hamilton).
Bell won gold in the discus, while McIntyre set a New Zealand U17 age group record in the 2000m steeplechase. Murdoch ran a 15-second personal best time of 5.55.07.
Goodwin was 11th in the triple jump with a jump of 12.30m and O’Connor was 20th in the 4km cross country, following her seventh place and PB time of 9.25.29 in the 3000m.
Charlotte Floodsmith-Ryan will draw on her experience of competing at the same meet last year when
she joins the New Zealand Secondary Schools Track and Field team at the Australian All Schools Athletics
Championships in December.
Year 12 Chilton St James student Charlotte is one of 16 athletes and the only one from Wellington recently named in the New Zealand Secondary Schools Track and Field team for the meet in Cairns from 7-9 December, a week after the New Zealand Secondary School Championships in Dunedin.
“I was really happy when I found out I had been selected for this trip because I went last year to
Adelaide and had a really good experience,” said Charlotte.
Last year she competed in the U16 division, so will be moving up to the U18s, and will just concentrate on the one race.
“I ran in the 800m and 1500m. I ran in the A final in the 800m and finished sixth. The girls in Australia are
so much stronger than here and it was a really eye-opening experience how much faster they were.
“I am only doing the 800m, because it being held in Cairns and I am not quite used to the heat so I
decided to just concentrate on that.”
She is coming off a positive performance in her final race of last season.
“At the North Island Secondary Schools I competed in the two races and won the 800m and came second in the 1500m.”
“They had an Intermediate age-group at the North Islands [just Junior and Seniors at the NZSS
Championships] and I missed my Intermediate heat so I thought it wouldn’t be fair if I went straight into
the final so I ended up running in the Senior race.”
How did the Senior 800m win pan out?
“It was actually annoyingly really windy. I know one of the girls would go out hard and set a good pace
so I thought I would sit on her shoulder. But because of the wind it was hard and we ended up going
really slowly in the first lap in 71s or 72s and we ended up doing the last lap in a massive negative split in
63s or 64s.”
Sophie Atkinson from Glendowie College in Auckland was second and Kirstie Rae from Wellington East
Girls’ College was third. Kirstie also won the 1500m that Charlotte finished second in.
Before that Charlotte competed in several local, regional and national meets over the summer. Still a
junior owing to her January birthdate she came second in the Junior 800m to Wellington Girls’ College’s
Lucy Hagen in the NZSS meet in Hastings in early December.
Charlotte planned for a big cross country season just gone but says winter colds and school camps
meant she missed out on regional and national events. “I didn’t get in as much racing as I had hoped,
but I still think I have got a pretty good base for summer.”
Cross country was where it all began for her.
“I started running when I was eight and I started out running cross country and my first club was
Trentham Harriers. So for my first few years of running it was all cross country and I didn’t really do
But a switch in coach was a catalyst to moving on to the track.
“My current coach David Lewis is from a track background and he introduced me to the middle distance
events and I just really like the 800m.”
Charlotte’s first track race was the Colgate Games and she hasn’t looked back.
Charlotte’s training partners include Hutt Valley High School’s Phoebe McKnight and Wellington East
Girls’ College pair Tessa Hunt and Kirstie Rae.
“We all compete on the track but we are all really good friends outside of competing and we all run
together on Sundays.”
Tessa won last December’s Senior Girls 800m – 1500m double, while Kirstie finished fifth and third
respectively in the same races.
Right now Charlotte is training six days a week, which includes two runs, three track sessions and one
doing cross training and swimming.
A background playing football is also beneficial. “I played a bit of football when I was younger and that
helped me develop my speed which I use for the 800m – I think without the football I don’t think I would
be running that distance.”
There is a small group of Chilton St James athletes making waves. High Jumper Josie Reeves was on
standby to compete in the just completed Youth Olympics, Elizabeth Hewitt is a thrower [broke the
Junior record at the CSW Regional Athletics in March] and Katelyn Sceats is a year 9 3,000m and
steeplechase runner. “At North Islands this year we all won at least one event, so for a small school we
did really well.”
The Chilton athletes will be heading to Dunedin to compete in the 2018 NZSSAA Track and Field and
Road Race Championships from 30 November to 2 December. Charlotte then heads to Cairns for the
Australian All Schools Championships early the next week.
Connor Bell once conceded he was a ‘big kid who liked to play PlayStation’ - now he is a discus Youth Olympic Games champion after completing the performance of his life.
“I am absolutely stoked with how I went out there,” Westlake Boys' High School's Bell said.
“I just feel like I’ve done an awesome job, coming out here and performing in front of the world’s best and I did so well and I’m just really proud of myself.”
It took two days and an average score of 133.08, from all throws, to secure gold - a dominant 18 metre victory.
“To get out on the board reasonably early in the competition was an absolute joy,” Bell said
Bell threw 66.84 metres to go well ahead of the rest, on day one of competition in Buenos Aires.
“I do not like to count my chickens before they hatch..” Bell said. “After that first throw [today], you know that was a big one, and that helped me relax a little bit.”
The 17-year-old, who was coach by Dame Valerie Adams for a few months early in his career, admits he felt the pressure coming into the Youth Olympic Games.
“There was quite a bit of pressure coming into this… a lot of emotion and I’m just pleased I was able to pull it off.”
For the first time during one of his competitions, the music was blaring and the New Zealand flag hung proud on the stands - and he used it to his advantage.
“I just had a bit of a dance, tried to shake all of the emotion out of me,” he said.
“The coolest part was when I went to throw, the crowd disappeared and it was just me and the discus.
Bell admits he has little time to celebrate the victory, knowing there are more milestones in his career that he’d like to achieve.
“This is a big tick off the checklist, it’s a big milestone… but moving forward World Juniors is the next check on the checklist.”
And after that, well, the world senior stage is calling too.
Interview courtesy of the NZOC - follow the Youth Olympics here
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