Star-studded athletics team named to represent NZ at Comm Games

A star-studded athletics team of 18 Kiwis will head to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham later this year after selections were announced Friday by the New Zealand Olympic Committee.

The team, which features three conditionally-selected athletes - is headlined by defending champions from the 2018 Gold Coast Games in shot putter Tom Walsh and hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe.

The duo are set to make their third Commonwealth Games appearances, having previously won silver medals in their respective events at the Glasgow Games in 2014.

“I never thought as a kid that I would go to three Commonwealth Games, so it blows my mind a little to think how long I’ve been throwing and how far I’ve come," Ratcliffe said.

"It is always a pleasure to wear the silver fern on my chest and I’m very excited to have another opportunity to represent New Zealand with pride."

Julia Ratcliffe at the Tokyo Olympics.

Bolstering the throwing stocks will be Jacko Gill in the men's shot put while Oceania record-holder and Tokyo Olympian Lauren Bruce as well as debutant Nicole Bradley join Ratcliffe in the women's hammer.

Also selected is Olympian Maddi Wesche who will look to add her name alongside Val Young and Dame Valerie Adams as winners in the women's shot put after Wesche burst onto the scene with a sixth-place finish last year in Tokyo.

Maddi Wesche at the Tokyo Olympics.

Completing the throwers section for Birmingham are 2018 Youth Olympic champion Connor Bel in the men’s discus and javelin thrower Tori Peeters, who set a New Zealand national record mark of 62.40m in Hastings in March.

Moving to the track, sprinter Zoe Hobbs will make her Commonwealth Games debut after a stellar season in which she broke the New Zealand women's 100m record three times.

Hobbs' training partner Portia Bing will also head back to the Games eight years after making her debut to compete in the women's 400m hurdles.

In the long distance events, George Beamish has won selection for the men's 5000m while Quentin Rew will feature in the men’s 10,000m track race walk in what will be his second Commonwealth Games.

Rounding out the team is world indoor high jump bronze medallist Hamish Kerr and women’s pole vaulters Olivia McTaggart and Imogen Ayris.

Hamish Kerr clears the bar with ease at the World Indoor Championships.

"I'm incredibly excited for the opportunity to put on the Black Singlet once again," Kerr said.

"Four years ago, I missed out on Commonwealth selection. I used that disappointment as motivation to prioritise my jumping, so to be named in the team this time around is hugely gratifying.

"The standard of high jump in the Commonwealth is incredibly high right now, so I look forward to the challenge in August."

The three conditionally-selected athletes are Keeley O’Hagan in the women's high jump, Tokyo Olympian runner Sam Tanner in the 1500m and 5000m exponent Eric Speakman.

The trio are subject to meeting "conditions" before June 26 to have their selections finalised.

Friday's selections takes the total number of athletes currently named to the New Zealand Team for Birmingham 2022 to 57.

New Zealand Athletics team for Birmingham 2022

Lauren Bruce - Women’s Hammer Throw

Julia Ratcliffe - Women’s Hammer Throw

Nicole Bradley - Women’s Hammer Throw

Olivia McTaggart - Women’s Pole Vault

Imogen Ayris - Women’s Pole Vault

Maddison Wesche - Women’s Shot Put

Tori Peeters - Women’s Javelin

Zoe Hobbs - Women’s 100m

Portia Bing - Women’s 400m Hurdles

Keeley O’Hagan - Women’s High Jump *Conditionally Selected

Jacko Gill - Men’s Shot Put

Tom Walsh - Men’s Shot Put

Hamish Kerr - Men’s High Jump

Connor Bell - Men’s Discus

Quentin Rew - Men’s 10,000m Race Walk

George Beamish - Men’s 5000m

Sam Tanner - Men’s 1500 *Conditionally Selected

Eric Speakman - Men’s 5,000m *Conditionally Selected