Athletics: Travel plans blown apart by tornado

The tornado and thunderstorms that struck Auckland on Thursday disrupted the travel plans of athletes competing at the New Zealand secondary schools championships in Dunedin this weekend.

One athlete affected was Alexander O'Neill, from Rosmini College, whose flights were delayed. He missed the junior boys hammer throw that started at 3.30pm yesterday. Allowance was made for him to compete in the senior boys event that started at 6.15pm.

A group of Hamilton athletes drove into heavy rain on their way to the Auckland airport for the flight to Dunedin.

''When we arrived, the airport was closed because of lightning,'' event co-ordinator John Tylden said.

''They wouldn't refuel the planes. My Waikato group was one of the fortunate ones, because we finally did travel.''

Other schools did not get off the ground at Auckland. When they arrived late in Christchurch, there was no air link to Dunedin. They travelled south by minibus and taxis and arrived at 3am.

It was hardly good preparation for a major athletics event, but some others did not even get off the ground in Auckland.

Adjustments will be made for athletes in the 1500m who will miss their heats today because of flight delays. They will be allowed into the 1500m final that will be held tomorrow.

''We have come up with a compromise for athletes affected so they won't miss out,'' organising committee chairman Andrew Finn said.