Athletics: Ward good prospect in 800m

Rhian Ward in action at the Caledonian Ground. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Rhian Ward in action at the Caledonian Ground. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Rhian Ward has raw talent. He has the potential to represent New Zealand at the highest level and stand on the podium.

For the past three years, the Dunstan High School pupil has been mixing athletics with cricket and rugby but has still been able to perform at big meets.

Ward (16) is a member of his school's First XI and First XV. He is talented at these sports but his best chance of reaching the big time is in athletics.

He proved it in March when he won a gold medal in the under-17 800m at the New Zealand track and field championships in Auckland.

Ward was one of five Otago athletes who won gold medals at the championships. He won in a time of 1min 58.80sec.

"It felt pretty cool," Ward told the Otago Daily Times. "I put in a lot of hard work and it paid off.

"It didn't go to plan. I led the first lap but I got boxed in going into the second lap. I had to kick from 200m and go around the outside."

He is keen to repeat that performance and win the gold medal in the senior boys 800m when the New Zealand secondary schools championships are held at the Caledonian Ground in Dunedin next weekend.

Ward, who is coached by Allan Hamilton in Alexandra, looks like a champion. He runs with an efficient style and has a ferocious kick that can win races.

He has got the mental toughness that comes from growing up in the country, and is a fast learner.

Ward learned the hard way after coming fifth in the 800m at last year's New Zealand secondary schools championships in Wellington.

"It was my first major race and I got psyched out," he said. "I looked around the field and tried to find a potential winner."

He now takes a different approach and just concentrates on what he must do himself.

"It was my first major race at Wellington and I was under pressure that I had never experienced before," Ward said.

Ward has been loaned books by his coach and has read about great New Zealand athletes such as Peter Snell, John Walker and Murray Halberg.

His favourite athlete is Kenyan David Rudisha, who ran from the front and won the 800m gold medal in a world-record time of 1min 40.91sec at the London Olympics.


Rhian Ward
The facts

Age: 16.

School: Dunstan High School.

Athletics highlight: New Zealand under-17 800m champion (2012).

Best times: 400m (51.95sec), 800m (1min 58.30sec).

Coach: Allan Hamilton.