Tokyo Olympics: Hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe stuns rival with Oceania record, Olympic qualifier

Commonweatlh Games hammer champion Julia Ratcliffe has seemingly clinched her selection for the Tokyo Olympics, with an Oceania record throw at the national athletics championships in Hastings.

After playing second fiddle to Kiwi rival Lauren Bruce all summer, Ratcliffe added more than a metre to her personal best with her opening throw and then unleashed 73.55m in the fourth round, eight centimetres than Bruce's previous zone mark.

The performance sealed her sixth national title and continued Bruce's frustrating string of near misses at the national championships, where she has accumulated seven runner-up finishes over the last eight years, without claiming a title. 

The Cantabrian finished second with 72.76m, still better than Ratcliffe's previous best.

"It feels so good to get the Olympic qualification mark off the plate and I can finally focus on building up for Tokyo," says Ratcliffe, who took the Commonwealth crown at Gold Coast 2018.

"It was just awesome. It was like the culmination of 16 years of training with [coach and father] Dave in the crowd.

"In the last week or so, training has been up and down, so to keep it all together was the big challenge. It was more than I could have hoped."

Other standout performances on the opening day of competition saw Tom Walsh and Dame Valerie Adams add to their legacies in the respective shot put events. After a slow start to his 2021 campaign, Walsh claimed his 12th title with a season-best 21.77m.

"I did exactly what I wanted to do today through the comp," he says. "Earlier in the season, I was beating myself up through the competitions, but I got myself out of the hole I'd dug myself, worrying about other people."

Dame Val was less pleased with her 18.43m toss, still good enough to claim her 17th crown.

"It's really awesome to win title No.17 tonight, but I'm gutted with how I performed," she admits. "But that's the name of the game, you have to perform to do the very best you can.

"We have to adopt a good attitude and take it on the best we can."

Sprinter Zoe Hobbs equalled the national women's 100m record of 11.32s, set by Michelle Seymour in Melbourne 28 years ago.