A Kiwi sprinter's preparations for the World Masters Games 2017 has been boosted after she secured a dream invite to compete at the IAAF World Athletics Championships - starring the likes of Usain Bolt and Valerie Adams - in Beijing in August.
Liz Wilson is set to line up in the W50-54 400m – one of two exhibition masters events set to feature on the schedule – after running a lifetime best of 61.35 in her native Dunedin last December.
Now the 52-year-old Sport Otago co-ordinator and pre-school teacher is relishing the prospect of competing in the iconic Bird's Nest Stadium - venue of the 2008 Olympic Games.
“Being so much older competing in the Bird’s Nest Stadium was something I never thought I’d get the chance to do and I feel very lucky,” she explains.
“It is exciting and competing at the same meeting as the likes of Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (World and Olympic women's 100m champion) will be really cool.”
With no sporting background in her youth, Liz only took up athletics aged 43 after a coach impressed by her jogging around the edge of the track - where her daughter, Lauren, a former Oceania junior sprint champion, trained – encouraged her to give the sport a crack.
She proved a natural and quickly started to excel on the domestic scene in both masters and open competition. In 2013 she made her mark internationally by scooping gold in the 400m and bronze medals in the 100m and 200m at the World Masters Athletics Championships in Brazil.
Training eight times week under the guidance of leading New Zealand sprint coach Brent Ward she has been working hard on improving her stride length and faces a busy month of competition in August with the 2015 WMA World Masters Athletics Championships in France preceding her appearance at the Bird’s Nest Stadium.
“I’d like to repeat what I did in Brazil and medal in all three events,” she explains of her ambitions at the World Masters Athletics Championships. “I’d really like to achieve gold in all three. I’ve got to aim high.”
Then on August 29 she will line up in her event on the penultimate night of competition at the IAAF World Championships in the 400m. So what does she hope to achieve?
“I’m ranked in the top three in my event, so I have a really good chance,” she adds. “Some athletes have switched events to do the 400m but I feel like I am the specialist 400m runner with the experience.”
Long term, Liz, who runs for Hill City-University AC, is targeting the World Masters Games 2017 and she would encourage anyone to give the competition a crack.
“It gives an incredible opportunity for people to try a sport and compete at a sport that they were good at when they were younger,” she says. “It is a truly global event and it will be a great occasion.”
Photo credit: Teaukura Moetaua.