|Birth name||Nicholas Ian Willis|
25 April 1983 |
Lower Hutt, New Zealand
|Alma mater||University of Michigan|
|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 1500m at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing with a time of 3:34.16 minutes. 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).
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. 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.
For a New Zealand high school student over the mile, Willis became the fastest ever on 20 January 2001, with a time of 4 minutes 1.33 seconds.
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
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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
2010: Surgery and comeback
During 2010, Willis underwent knee surgery. 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. At the same meet Willis ran a sub-four minute mile.
In July 2012 Willis set the Oceania 1500m record with a run of 3:30.35 at the Monaco Diamond League Herculis meeting. He placed third in that race, with his time also marking an improvement of his own New Zealand record.
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.
|1500 m||3:30.35 NR||Monaco||2012|
|5000 m||13:27.54||Sacramento, CA||2005|
- Willis Earns 1500m Olympic Bronze Retrieved: 19 August 2008
- "Nick Willis". tvnz.co.nz. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
- Melbourne 2006 XVIII Commonwealth Games – Athletes Biography – Nicholas Willis. Melbourne2006.com.au. Retrieved on 2012-08-30.
- Berkow, Ira (6 March 2001). "Sports of The Times; Latest Sensation From New Zealand". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-13.
- "Willis runs comfortably into semis". Stuff.co.nz. 16 August 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
- "Willis into 1500m final". Stuff.co.nz. 18 August 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
- YouTube – ATHLETICS – 1500M MEN Retrieved: 19 March 2009
- [dead link]
- "Willis earns break after NY breakthrough". The Dominion Post. 22 September 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2011.
- "Willis back in action after knee surgery". TVNZ. 9 June 2010.
- Bidwell, Hamish (2011-02-26). "Emotional Nick Willis finally receives silver". stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 2012-07-21.
- "Nick Willis receives Olympic silver medal and runs Sub 4 mile". Oceania Athletics Association. 2011-02-28. Retrieved 2012-07-21.
- "Willis sets new record weeks out from Olympics". 21 July 2012.
- Nick Willis named NZ's London Olympics flagbearer Retrieved: 27 July 2012
- Hinton, Marc (8 August 2012). "Willis misses medal in 1500m final". Stuff NZ. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
- Nick Willis claims personal best in Austria. Tvnz.co.nz (2012-08-21). Retrieved on 2012-08-30.
|Flagbearer for New Zealand