Willis at the 2016 World Indoor Championships
|Birth name||Nicholas Ian Willis|
25 April 1983 |
Lower Hutt, New Zealand
|Alma mater||University of Michigan|
|College team||University of Michigan|
|Coached by||Ron Warhurst|
|Achievements and titles|
|Personal best(s)||800 metres: 1:45.54
1500 metres: 3:29.66 (AR)
3000 metres: 7:36.91
5000 metres: 13:20.33
Nicholas Ian Willis MNZM (born 25 April 1983) is a New Zealand middle distance runner and the country's only two-time Olympic medalist in the 1500 metres. He won the silver medal at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. His other achievements over the same distance include the national and Oceania record (3:29.66), and medals from three consecutive Commonwealth Games (gold in 2006, bronze in 2010 and 2014).
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, traveled to the University of Michigan in the United States on a full athletic scholarship. 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 min 1.33 s.
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. Reflecting on this result in 2013, Willis conceded that he'd peaked three weeks too early at Monaco, and consequently "ran out of steam".
He began with a time of 13m 20.33s over 5000m on 15 May. On June 11 he became the second New Zealander after Sir John Walker to break 3m 50s over a mile when finishing second at the Bislett Games in Oslo. Six days later he shaved 0.58s off Walker's 31-year-old record for the 3000m at Ostrava in the Czech Republic, clocking 7m 36.91s. Then on July 20, racing in a Diamond League event in Monaco, he reduced the New Zealand 1500m record to 3m 29.91s.
This 1500m time came on the same track he'd set national records on in 2011 and 2012, and made Willis the 27th man to beat the 3m30s barrier. He placed seventh in an uncommonly fast race – the four runners who finished 4th–7th all set the quickest ever times for their place in the field.
Glasgow Commonwealth Games
Entering the Commonwealth Games 5000m for the first time, and believing that he had "nothing to lose", Willis finished tenth. Amongst the New Zealanders in the field he was third of three, with Zane Robertson winning bronze.
Robertson's twin brother, Jake, was also in the 5000m race but tripped after a collision involving Willis. At the time Jake Robertson said that the incident was "the way things go", but five days later he told reporters that he would "not forget[...]the reason I fell in the 5k, including Nick Willis." Invited to comment, Willis only shrugged off "sensationalist journalism".
Willis also ran the 1500m at the same games. He qualified directly for the final, winning the first heat in 3.40.76. In the final Willis overtook South African Johan Cronje with his last three steps to win bronze in 3:39.60. Frustrated at himself, Willis believed he'd timed his race badly and saw his third placing as a "respectable finish" that he had to "salvage" from the race. "It was only my fitness that got me to that medal, not any tactical nous, or brilliance or planning."
Willis qualified for his third successive 1500m Olympic final, finishing 6th in his heat and third in his semi-final. In the final, the first two laps were run at an extremely slow pace. During the last 100 meters moved into third place about 50 meters from the finish. While he could not close the gap with Makloufi and Centrowitz, he maintained his position across the line to claim the bronze medal. After the race, Willis said that taking the bronze was "incredibly satisfying...it's the personal satisfaction that we corrected all the wrongs from London."
|1500 m||3:29.66 NR, AR||Monaco||17 July 2015|
|3000 m||7:36.91 NR||Ostrava, Czech Republic||2014|
|5000 m||13:20.33||Los Angeles,CA||2014|
Willis married Sierra Boucher on 30 September 2007. In 2012 they became parents with the birth of a son, Lachlan. They currently reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In March 2016 Willis announced on social media that he was a former porn addict.
- All-Athletics. "Profile of Nick Willis".
- Willis Earns 1500m Olympic Bronze Archived 23 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved: 19 August 2008
- "Nick Willis". tvnz.co.nz. Retrieved 4 August 2012.
- Melbourne 2006 XVIII Commonwealth Games – Athletes Biography – Nicholas Willis Archived 7 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. 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 Archived 1 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved: 19 March 2009
- Ramzi stripped of Olympic title Archived 5 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
- "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[permanent dead link] Retrieved: 27 July 2012
- Hinton, Marc (8 August 2012). "Willis misses medal in 1500m final". Stuff NZ. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
- Millmow, Jonathan (12 December 2013). "Little Lachlan keeping Nick Willis on the run". Fairfax (stuff.co.nz). Retrieved 25 July 2014.
- Alderson, Andrew. "Athletics: Nick Willis clocks another record". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
- Swannell, Rikki (27 July 2014). "Commonwealth Games: "I've got nothing to lose" - Willis". Radio Sport. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
- Shannon, Kris (27 July 2014). "Commonwealth Games: Robertson takes bronze in 5000m". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
- Shannon, Kris (2 August 2014). "Commonwealth Games: Robertson fires shot at Willis over trip". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- Shannoin, Kris (4 August 2014). "Athletics: Tigerish twins can be best - coach". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- Shannon, Kris (2 August 2014). "Glasgow: While you were sleeping - Day 9". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- Leggat, David (3 August 2014). "Commonwealth Games: Willis takes bronze with dramatic finish". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- Leggat, David (4 August 2014). "Commonwealth Games: Willis looks ahead to mile after dreams of a 1500m win turn sour". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- Nick Willis claims personal best in Austria. Tvnz.co.nz (2012-08-21). Retrieved on 2012-08-30.
- [dead link]
- Johnstone, Duncan (12 June 2014). "Olympian Nick Willis runs his fastest mile". Fairfax Media (stuff.co.nz). Retrieved 23 July 2014.
- "Nick Willis eclipses New Zealand 3000m record". Fairfax media (stuff.co.nz). 18 June 2014. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
- Miller, Corazon (6 March 2016). "Olympic star Nick Willis' struggle with porn addiction". NZME (nzherald.co.nz). Retrieved 21 August 2016.
|Flagbearer for New Zealand