Nick Willis

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Nick Willis
Nick Willis 2008.jpg
Personal information
Birth name Nicholas Ian Willis
Nationality  New Zealand
Born (1983-04-25) 25 April 1983 (age 31)
Lower Hutt, New Zealand
Alma mater University of Michigan
Sport 1500m
Coached by Ron Warhurst
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s) 1500 m: 3:30:35 (2012, NR)

Nicholas Ian Willis MNZM (born 25 April 1983) is a New Zealand middle distance runner. He won the silver medal in the 1500 metres at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, with a time of 3:34.16.[1] He was a gold medallist in the 1500 metres at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and a bronze medallist at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. He was the first athlete from New Zealand to win the 1500 metres at the Commonwealth Games (although Peter Snell and Jack Lovelock have both won gold in the Mile at the Empire and Commonwealth Games).

Personal life[edit]

Willis was born in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, where he grew up with his brother and sister. He attended Hutt Valley High School and after high school he got an athletic scholarship to the University of Michigan in the United States.[2] His brother, Steve Willis, is also an athlete, and they are the only brothers in the history of New Zealand to have both broken 4:00 minutes for the mile.[3]

For a New Zealand high school student over the mile, Willis became the fastest ever on 20 January 2001, with a time of 4 min 1.33 s.[4]

In May 2007, Willis became engaged to his girlfriend, Sierra Boucher. They married five months later, on 30 September 2007, and currently reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


In 2005, at the Golden League series in Paris, France, Willis broke John Walker's 32-year-old national record for the 1500m. Willis then won a Gold Medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, which he completed in 3:38.49 minutes, and two first placings at the New Zealand Track & Field Championships in 2006, with a time of 3:50.77 minutes, and 2008, which he ran in 3:44.46 minutes. His IAAF world ranking was 16 in May 2007.

2008: Olympic silver medallist[edit]

Willis won the 1500m silver medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics. He originally placed third but the eventual disqualification of Rashid Ramzi due to a positive drug test saw Willis's bronze medal become a silver one, which he received in 2011.

In the first 1500m heat Willis placed 2nd in a time of 3:36.01. After running at the back of the field for the first few laps he took the lead on the final lap eventually finishing ahead of Mehdi Baala.[5] Willis ran in the second 1500m semi-final where the pace was so slow that during the race he uncharacteristically told the other competitors to pick up the pace so more of them would have a chance to qualify. With 250m to go Willis was almost boxed in and had to fight his way around Arturo Casado. Willis finished 5th in the semi-final in a time of 3:37.54, making him the 9th fastest qualifier for the 12 man final.[6]

In the final Willis stayed at the back of the pack of runners for most of the race. Working his way through the field, he found himself in 6th place with 200m to go. Along the home straight he passed three runners, holding off Baala on the line claiming the bronze medal in 3:34.16.[7] With the 18 November 2009 disqualification of would-be winner Rashid Ramzi due to a positive drug test, that medal status was upgraded to a silver medal.[8]

In conclusion to his 2008 season, Willis won the Fifth Avenue Mile race in New York City, beating out twice-world champion Bernard Lagat of the United States by 0.1 seconds. Willis was the first New Zealander to win the race since John Walker in 1984.[9]

2010: Surgery and comeback[edit]

During 2010, Willis underwent knee surgery.[10] He came fifth in the Fifth Avenue Mile race and as defending champion in the 1500m his form leading into the 2010 Commonwealth Games was not his best. He managed to win the bronze medal in the event and said afterwards he was looking forward to training injury-free.


Willis didn't receive his 2008 Olympic silver medal until 26 February 2011. The presentation was originally scheduled for an International Track Meet in Christchurch, but the earthquake on the 22nd saw that event cancelled. Instead, Willis received his medal at a fundraising track meet organised in response to the earthquake and held at Newtown Park in Wellington. It was presented by International Olympic Committee member, and 1976 gold medallist, Barry Maister. It was the first Olympic medal ceremony held in New Zealand.[11] At the same meet Willis ran a sub-four minute mile.[12]


In July 2012 Willis set the Oceania 1500m record with a run of 3:30.35 at the Monaco Diamond League Herculis meeting.[13] He placed third in that race, with his time also marking an improvement of his own New Zealand record.

London Olympics[edit]

On 27 July he was officially named the Olympic flag bearer for New Zealand at London 2012.[14]

Willis was the oldest runner to make the final of the 1500m, in which he placed 9th – a result he described as "heart-breaking" and "a bit embarrassing". Algerian Taoufik Makhloufi won in 3:34.08s, with Willis clocking 3:36.94.[15]


On 11 June 2014 Willis became the second New Zealander to run a mile in under 3:50[16] when he ran 3:49.83 at the Bislett Games Oslo, Norway.[17] His time brought him with 0.75 seconds of the New Zealand record set by John Walker in the same event 32 years earlier.[16] A week later he took 0.58 seconds off Walker's national 3000m record, running 7:36.91 for a third placing at IAAF World Challenge meeting in Ostrava, Czech Republic.[18]

Personal bests[edit]

Distance Time Place Date
800 m 1:45.54 Heusden-Zolder 2004
1000 m 2:16.58[19] Linz 2012
1500 m 3:30.35 NR Monaco 2012
Mile 3:49.83[16] Oslo, Norway 2014
3000 m 7:36.91 NR[18] Ostrava, Czech Republic 2014
5000 m 13:20.33 Los Angeles,CA 2014


  1. ^ Willis Earns 1500m Olympic Bronze Retrieved: 19 August 2008
  2. ^ "Nick Willis". Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  3. ^ Melbourne 2006 XVIII Commonwealth Games – Athletes Biography – Nicholas Willis. Retrieved on 2012-08-30.
  4. ^ Berkow, Ira (6 March 2001). "Sports of The Times; Latest Sensation From New Zealand". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-13. 
  5. ^ "Willis runs comfortably into semis". 16 August 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  6. ^ "Willis into 1500m final". 18 August 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  7. ^ YouTube – ATHLETICS – 1500M MEN Retrieved: 19 March 2009
  8. ^ Ramzi stripped of Olympic title
  9. ^ "Willis earns break after NY breakthrough". The Dominion Post. 22 September 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  10. ^ "Willis back in action after knee surgery". TVNZ. 9 June 2010. 
  11. ^ Bidwell, Hamish (2011-02-26). "Emotional Nick Willis finally receives silver". Retrieved 2012-07-21. 
  12. ^ "Nick Willis receives Olympic silver medal and runs Sub 4 mile". Oceania Athletics Association. 2011-02-28. Retrieved 2012-07-21. 
  13. ^ "Willis sets new record weeks out from Olympics". 21 July 2012. 
  14. ^ Nick Willis named NZ's London Olympics flagbearer Retrieved: 27 July 2012
  15. ^ Hinton, Marc (8 August 2012). "Willis misses medal in 1500m final". Stuff NZ. Retrieved 8 August 2012. 
  16. ^ a b c "Athletics: Willis runs first sub 3.50 in mile". New Zealand Herald. 11 June 2014. Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  17. ^ Bislett Games Result: One Mile, Men
  18. ^ a b "Nick Willis sets new NZ 3000m record". TVNZ. 18 June 2014. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  19. ^ Nick Willis claims personal best in Austria. (2012-08-21). Retrieved on 2012-08-30.

External links[edit]

Olympic Games
Preceded by
Mahe Drysdale
Flagbearer for  New Zealand
London 2012
Succeeded by