Two-time Olympic medallist Nick Willis is still buzzing after being named for his fifth Olympic Games.
The middle-distance runner, who’s based in Ann Arbor Michigan, was conditionally selected to the New Zealand Team along with 14 other track and field athletes in mid-April.
“It’s the first time that I’ve been excited about being named to be honest! In the past it was expected and I was concentrating on aiming for medals whereas this time I wasn’t confident I was going to be selected so it was fun to experience the uncertainty,” said Willis.
“With the delay due to the covid year it’s been an emotional rollercoaster so this meant a lot more to me and those around me, it’s pretty rewarding.”
Tokyo will be Willis’ fifth Olympic Games. He made his Olympic debut at Athens 2004 before picking up a silver medal at Beijing 2008. The Lower Hutt raised athlete went on to be team flagbearer at the London Olympics before winning bronze in Rio.
“It’s a real honour and privilege to represent New Zealand at five Olympics. I grew up watching the Games and it was always so special to see the black singlet. I hope that some little kids in NZ can see me and it pushes them on with their sporting journey.”
The 37-year-old says Tokyo will be his last Olympic Games but he’s excited to spend time with Sam Tanner who’s also been named to the team.
“We’ve raced against each other two or three times and he’s broken my records. We’ve got a lot of shared interests so it’s going to be really fun to share this experience in Tokyo.
“Let’s face it, this is going to be my last time around the track in a 1500m at the Olympics and he’s only just starting his career so it’s awesome to pass the baton over to him and he can carry the torch for NZ middle distance running for the next decade or two.”
Since being officially selected Willis’ motivation has spiked, with the seasoned campaigner doing what a middle-distance runner does best, pacing himself.
“My training has gone up a level, it’s perked me up a lot. I’m one to be patient and focus on peaking at the Olympics so that’s my goal at the moment. I’m just putting in the basics, laying the foundations right now and I’m exactly where I want to be with a few months to go.”
“It’s always awesome to be part of the New Zealand Team and be a part of our Olympic athletics team. To be there with Dame Valerie Adams will be special as well, it’ll be our fifth Olympics together and I’m really looking forward to it.”Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games Nicholas Willis