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Late dash for Paris Olympics

ATHLETICS

“It’s a long shot”, but Wairarapa athlete Alison Andrews-Paul is determined to have a late charge at qualifying for the 800m at the Paris Olympics.

That confidence comes after the 26-year-old ran away with the Oceania Championship title in Suva, Fiji, last weekend, although she acknowledges that breaking into the top 45 on the world ranking only six weeks out from the Games is an outside chance.

“It’s possible, so I don’t want to leave anything on the table; I want to walk away from the season knowing I did everything I could, so I’m going to give it a crack while I have just a little time left in the qualifying window,” Andrews-Paul said.

“The standard is 1:59.30, so I don’t think that is realistic for me this year. I think that 2:00 is, so what I’m trying to do is improve my ranking.

“Ranking is my best bet at trying to make it, and I’m on the cusp, I’m on the edge. I think I’m going to be in the 60s, and you have to be top 45, and you’re crazy not to go for it if you’re that close.”

The Vancouver-based Andrews-Paul isn’t wasting any time in pursuing her Olympic dream and was due to race in the Edmonton Invitational yesterday [NZ time] followed by a meet in Vancouver tomorrow [NZ time].

The victory in Suva capped a strong first half of the year for Andrews-Paul, who won the national 800m title in Wellington in March. That earned her selection for the Oceania Champs, and on top of that, she was named New Zealand team captain, which she described as “such an honour; I was so excited; it doesn’t really get bigger than that.”

Andrews-Paul was in good form heading into the Oceania final, having benefited from some tough racing at the start of the northern hemisphere season and a final buildup of winning an invitational 800m in Suva the previous weekend.

“It was a fun hit out, and I treated it as time trial style, but those races can be difficult. To run 2:03 the week before shows, I was in good shape, but it’s also nice to get a hit out because you come a long way, and there’s a lot of travel in your legs, so it was nice to have a nice blowout.”

Heading into the championship final, Andrews-Paul took a flexible approach, and it played out perfectly when she tucked in behind race favourite Australian Carley Thomas in the windy conditions.

“I tried to stay as patient as I could and save as much energy as possible because I’ve found that’s just the best tactic for me, like where to focus my mental energy and how can I be the most relaxed one out here.

“I guess in that way, it did play out well for me, and I tried to be prepared for however it played out because you just never know exactly, and it’s too soon to call the race, even in the last 100m, you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Andrews-Paul made her move on the final curve and pulled away to win by a second from Thomas in a time of 2:03.94, and she admits to being surprised at the margin.

“I didn’t know how big the gap was until I looked back afterwards, and when you’re in the moment, the last 100m is a bit like a blur, so I just try and keep my form, but it was some of the best I’ve felt coming home and I felt really good the last 200 and that’s why I was able to make a strong move on the curve rather than waiting that far out and I was really stoked how I felt overall,” she said

“It was one of the biggest things I’ve done in my career – an international medal – it’s really awesome and for it to be gold as well is really cool, and it was really cool to contribute to the team atmosphere. That’s the most pleasing part, being able to contribute to the team.”

Regardless of her last-ditch attempt to qualify for Paris, the former New Zealand Under-20 international and winner of the 2016 Wairarapa Senior Sports Personality has a busy North American season ahead, and her Vancouver base is ideally situated for her chase glory at some of the major events on the calendar.

Andrews-Paul is in her fifth year in Vancouver, where she works in senior care, having completed her master’s degree in public health. She still trains under her coach, Britt Townsend, from Simon Fraser University and runs under the university banner.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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