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.
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