Kiwi high jumper makes history

Hamish Kerr of New Zealand competing in the men's high jump during day three of the World Indoor Athletics Championships at the Stark Arena in Belgrade, Serbia. Photo: Getty Images
Hamish Kerr of New Zealand competing in the men's high jump during day three of the World Indoor Athletics Championships at the Stark Arena in Belgrade, Serbia. Photo: Getty Images
Hamish Kerr has finished third at the World Indoor Athletics championship in Serbia, becoming the first New Zealander to win a global high jump medal.

In the first indoor competition of his life Kerr matched his national outdoor record of 2.31m to make history.

Four times he surpassed the 39-year-old national record of Roger Te Puni as he went toe to toe with the cream of global high jumping.

A second time clearance at 2.31m put him firmly in the medal picture and although 2.34m was just beyond him, he shared bronze with Italy's charismatic Olympic high jump champion Gianmarco Tamberi.

The gold was secured by 2022 world number one Sanghyeok Woo of South Korea, who successfully cleared 2.34m with his first attempt. Swiss jumper Loic Gasch also cleared a best of 2.31m to grab silver on countback ahead of Hamish and Tamberi.

Hamish Kerr after finishing third. Photo: Getty Images
Hamish Kerr after finishing third. Photo: Getty Images

Inside a pumping Stark Arena in Belgrade, Hamish's competition got away to an underwhelming start after a failure with his very attempt of the competition at 2.15m. Nonetheless, he quickly recovered from the hiccup to soar clear at 2.15m at the second time of asking and quickly found his groove.

He lowered Roger Te Puni's long-standing national indoor record of 2.16m with a first time clearance at 2.20m and also requiring the minimum number of attempts to negotiate both 2.24m and 2.28m.

Only six men remained in contention at the 2.31m height - a mark Hamish first achieved when setting the New Zealand outdoor record in Wellington last year - with the Kiwi clipping the bar his heels for a narrow miss with his first attempt.

Spurred on by his coach, Terry Lomax, who is also serving as Athletics NZ team leader of the five-strong New Zealand team, he got it absolutely right with his second attempt moving into the medal placings by equalling his national record.

While Woo cleared 2.34m that same height proved a bridge too far today for Hamish, but for the Auckland-raised and Christchurch-based jumper this was a breakthrough moment for the 25-year-old with such an exciting future ahead of him.

Hamish said on winning bronze: "I am amazingly stoked and feeling a lot of relief because I knew coming into this competition I was in amazing form. I knew I was one of the athletes that had a quiet chance of doing well, so just to be able to execute the plan we put in place and to be able to get an awesome result is cool."

"That first time failure at 2.15m came back to haunt me because had I cleared it, I would have jumped up a position, but the thing is I'd never jumped indoors before, and it took me the entire competition to get used to the track. But with every jump I worked the track a little bit better.

"At 2.31m I always had the belief I could get it I just had to commit to my last few steps which has been an issue for me all season. I didn't quite commit to the first attempt but I had a good sniff (of clearing). That second attempt I committed and it was one of the nicest jumps of my life."

"It is pretty special to win bronze. The journey I've had from being a high school athlete to going to uni and stepping away from the sport and having an amazing coach in Anne Thomson in Palmerston North who coaxed me back into the sport before handing the reins to Terry (Lomax for the past few years has been some adventure. The commitment and dedication and hours he spent on me is testament to the people we have here in New Zealand. This goes out to my girlfriend, my parents my brother and two sisters I have a huge village around me it is cool that I can give back to them."

Geordie Beamish, the other Kiwi in action during the penultimate session of the World Athletics Indoor Championships, finished tenth in the final of the men's 3000m in 7:46.91.

Making his New Zealand debut on the back of an outstanding indoor season in which the US-based athlete has posted national indoor records for the 3000m and 5000m, Geordie could not quite match his impressive performance in the heats - when he placed second to Olympic 10,000m champion Selemon Barega.

In a messy tactical race, Geordie was detached from the lead group before the midway point of the race and eventually wound up tenth.

The gold medal was won by Barega, the classy Ethiopian, who struck gold from his countryman Lemecha Girma in a time of 7:41.38.

Tom Walsh won a bronze medal in the men's shot put yesterday.

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