After decimating the New Zealand hammer record in September Lauren Bruce’s thoughts immediately turned to the Tokyo Olympic Games.

“My next step towards Tokyo is to hit the automatic qualifying distance of 72.50m at a sanctioned competition,” said the 23-year-old.

“That’ll book my spot and then I can put all my time and energy into preparing and being ready. It’ll be my first Olympics and first real senior event but I want to be competitive, I don’t just want to go to get the tracksuit.”

And Bruce has every chance of doing just that.

2020 has been a phenomenal year for the Timaru born athlete.

The 23-year-old used lockdown and the enforced time at home to her advantage, training harder than ever and coming out swinging, throwing 73.47m to break the New Zealand national record in September by 1.12m.

“It wasn’t unexpected,” said Bruce.

“We’d been throwing more than 70m in training so we went into that competition hoping to break the New Zealand record.

“There was quite a bit of relief when it happened though, it was pretty special and it was great to show what we can do.”

The throw was the sixth farthest hammer distance posted in the world in 2020 and it continued a meteoric rise for the athlete.

Bruce was throwing around the 63m mark mid last season, meaning she’s improved by a staggering 10m since 2019.

“When we found out Tokyo had been postponed we stepped back and thought; how can we turn this into an opportunity?”

That approach saw Bruce rearrange her life and prioritise her training with the help of throws coach Dale Stevenson, who also coaches Tom Walsh.

“When we went into lockdown I was fortunate to be in a position where I didn’t have to work so we had a clean slate to put everything into training and recovery and being a full-time athlete.

“We also had a clear run with no competitions which allowed us to approach things differently.

“Before that, I’d always had something like work or Uni outside of training and I had a pretty packed schedule so to have that stripped away and see massive improvements has encouraged me to try to keep it that way.”

Bruce is now looking forward to a short break before the New Zealand summer season.

“There’s still definitely room to improve so I’m excited about the possibilities.”

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