Monday, January 30, 2012

Article re Earthquake and the International Track Meet

Here is an article that ran in the NZ Herald about the earthquake and my part in the International Track Meet:

Olympic heptathlete Rebecca Wardell was lucky - all she lost in the Christchurch earthquakes was a running track. Now this week's International Track meeting at Christ's College is part of bringing back athletics to Canterbury.

Every Cantabrian has their own tale about where they were when the big one rocked Christchurch last February. Wardell was standing on a sports ground at Rangi Ruru Girls' School, preparing to coach javelin.

"The earthquake knocked me off my feet," she recalls. "At first, I thought I'd fainted."

Once Wardell had picked herself up and dusted off, she was suddenly standing in a puddle of water from the nearby school pool and surrounded by 600 hysterical girls evacuated from the school buildings.

"I was in Australia, on the way to the Delhi Commonwealth Games, when the previous one hit in September 2010, so I'd never experienced anything like this.

"It was pretty freaky all right. From then on, [the shakes] just kept on coming. It's not a nice way to live."

That 6.3 magnitude shock has had a profound effect on New Zealand's third-biggest city. For the sporting community, it rendered many of the region's major sports stadiums unusable. For local athletics, it meant the loss of leading middle distance coach Brian Taylor, who died when the Canterbury Television building collapsed, and the cancellation of the international track meeting, scheduled for four days later.

"The high performance facilities at QE2 Stadium were running but they were pretty badly damaged. I was injured at the time, but towards the middle of the year, I realised I needed to find another all-weather surface to train on."

Wardell, 34, who had lived and worked in the Rangi Ruru boarding house, relocated to Dunedin, where she found similar lodgings at Columba College. After more than a year recovering from foot and hip surgery, she's now fully focused on achieving the London Olympic selection standard of 6050 points, within the 6108 personal best she set qualifying for Beijing four years ago.

"All my training indicators have me at that same level, if not better; looks like a year in the gym paid off."

Wardell will contest the 100m, long jump and shot put at the International Track Meeting, which takes on a Chariots of Fire feel with its historic setting and old-school grass track.

Despite the slightly archaic facilities, organisers have the support of New Zealand's top athletes. World shot champion Valerie Adams will compete, Olympic 1500m silver medallist Nick Willis faces an unfamiliar challenge in a handicap two-mile event and rising shot star Jacko Gill will show his ability in the discus circle. Double Commonwealth Games silver medallist Nikki Hamblin is under an injury cloud but hopes to line up for the Brian Taylor Memorial 3000m.

"The response we've had from athletes, public and sponsors has been fantastic," says trustee Paul Coughlan. "They're so supportive of the fact we're keeping it in Christchurch and making it happen.

"There'll be some challenges, especially with the capacity of the venue, but we're expecting a packed house of about 3000, so the atmosphere will be superb."

The meeting also marks 50 years since Peter Snell's 800m/880 yards world records - on grass - at Lancaster Park.

By Grant Chapman

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