Adrian Blincoe

Learning quickly key to Willis’ success

HPSNZ Performance Team Leader Adrian Blincoe was Nick Willis’ roommate at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and has long had a unique insight into the success of the middle distance star – who is set to appear at his fifth Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Adrian, New Zealand’s 5000m record-holder and 1000th Olympian, says a fierce intellect, an ability to learn quickly from mistakes allied to his natural physiological gifts have all combined to allow Nick to enjoy a remarkable international career spanning two decades.

However, he believes that key to Nick’s success has been an ability to learn quickly, which has stood him in great stead throughout a proud career highlighted by Olympic 1500m silver and bronze medals at the 2008 and 2016 Games, respectively.

“Several years ago we had a mantra at HPSNZ that New Zealanders learn quicker than the opposition,” explains Adrian. “Nick has most certainly applied that to his running.”.

“This was not only in the heat of competition, where tactics play a part, but more how Nick was able to learn what he responded best to in training, which allowed him to perform when it counted – particularly at the Olympic Games.”

Nick has enjoyed a medal-laden career. In 2006 he struck 1500m gold at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games. Two years later he won his Beijing Olympic silver before he landed successive bronze medals at the 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games. In 2016 in Rio he scooped 1500m bronze to become the first Kiwi in history to win 1500m medals at two Olympics.

His one major Olympic disappointment came at the London 2012 Games, when he finished ninth in the final – despite having set a personal best and national 1500m record of 3:30.35 in Monaco in his final pre-Games appearance.

However, Adrian says Nick showed an ability to quickly learn from his mistakes.

“He didn’t run like he expected to in the London final, but he made the adjustments for the remainder of his career which contributed to him winning a medal in Rio.

“Ahead of the Rio Games he didn’t feel like he needed to prove himself by running 3:30 in Monaco the week before as he did before the London games. He structured his training to ensure he could perform when it counted most and he won the bronze.”

Adrian says such is Nick’s physical ability he could have chosen to pursue many other sports – but it was athletics’ good fortune the Lower Hutt-raised teenager selected middle-distance running.

Possessing eye-catching natural speed, aerobically strong and with a body that can handle high volume and high intensity he has “all the physiological components” you would want in a middle-distance runner.

Nonetheless, Adrian says without good intelligence and good decision-making skills he would not have been able to successful utilise these gifts.

“He’s a smart guy, who thinks deeply about his craft, he has been in the business a long time,” he explains. “He was smart enough to commit to a coach (Ron Warhurst and more latterly his wife, Sierra) who he believed in. Over time he has matured and that dynamic has changed. They now discuss things between the three of them, and the combination works well.”

Boasting a senior international career which began at the 2001 World University Games – perhaps of all his accomplishments in the sport it is Nick’s sheer longevity that most impresses.

Adrian says Nick is one “of the few” to have enjoyed such a lengthy middle-distance career which is testament to Nick, his team and his motivation but a number of factors have enabled the veteran Kiwi to thrive for so long.

“It goes back to the fact that he knows the type of training his body really responds to and he has confidence in this,” he adds. “But what is also impressive is Nick does not forego his family or his career (he works full-time as Athlete Experience Manager with a sports apparel company). It is a combination of all these factors.

“He brings his family to training and competition, and he has been able to merge the worlds of athletics, family, and business. All of this has given him happiness, which has allowed his athletics career to continue to flourish.”