Tokyo Olympics 2021: Record-equalling Dame Valerie Adams headlines NZ athletics team

Shot put great Dame Valerie Adams will head to a record-equalling fifth consecutive Olympics, as part of the athletics squad announced by the New Zealand Olympic Committee.

Dame Valerie is part of a 15-strong team to the Tokyo Games, where she'll try to add another gold medal to those she won at Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

She joins windsurfer Barbara Kendall as the only Kiwi women to compete at five Olympic Games.

"It's the honour of my life to proudly wear the silver fern and represent Aotearoa to the fullest," says Dame Valerie. "This will be my fifth Games, but my first Olympics as a mother, and I really just want to get out there and make my children - Kimoana and Kepaleli - and my nation proud."

The team strikes a balance of experienced campaigners and emerging talent, with Dame Valerie, fellow shot putter Tom Walsh and veteran 1500m runner Nick Willis, joining the likes of Maddison-Lee Wesche (shot put), Sam Tanner (1500m), and Connor Bell (discus).

Nineteen-year-old Bell has been in imposing form on the national athletics circuit and is eager to add to the gold medal he won at the Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games in 2018.

Hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe will also look to build on her momentum on the domestic scene, after setting an Oceania record at the national athletics championship in Hastings last month, clinching her sixth title.

"I'm absolutely over the moon to officially be selected for the New Zealand team," says Ratcliffe.

"It's been a long time coming and being able to hit the qualifier feels extra sweet, after my failed Rio 2016 campaign, especially after the qualifying mark was pushed out by 1.5 metres for Tokyo. 

"I'm so excited to go out and chase a medal to bring home for New Zealand."

The 27-year-old is part of the largest throwing contingent New Zealand has ever sent to an Olympics, with eight athletes over shot put, hammer, discus and javelin events.

"This is a really exciting team and one which we have high hopes for in Tokyo," says NZOC president Mike Stanley. "There's a fantastic mixture of proven Olympic Games experience and promising young talent, and it's also pleasing to see such a broad spread of event disciplines.

"It will be wonderful to see the likes of Dame Valerie Adams, Nick Willis and Tom Walsh competing again on the world's biggest athletics stage, while there are many other members of the team who could become household names with their exploits in Tokyo."

Also attending their first Olympics are Lauren Bruce (hammer), Camille Buscomb (5000m/10,000m), Malcolm Hicks (marathon), Hamish Kerr (high jump) and Tori Peeters (javelin).

The squad's conditional selection requires final confirmation of direct entry qualification places and world ranking lists by World Athletics.

The 24-year-old has been plagued by injury since her bronze medal-winning efforts at Rio 2016, compounded by an Achilles tendon strain sustained last month at her first athletics meet in almost two years.

The opening of the trans-Tasman bubble on April 19 should give McCartney the opportunities she needs at qualifying meets in Australia to hit her mark of 4.70m the deadline of June 22.

NZOC high performance manager Scott Goodman says McCartney is back to full training but isn't completely over her Achilles issues.

"What happens is she starts training and gets to quite a good level," says Goodman. "She actually did a competition a couple of weeks ago off just eight steps[run up].

"So, she's getting close, but then the inflammation flares. She's working through another programme at the moment, and the medical team are still confident they can get that to settle and then we need to get her into a competition in May or June and try and qualify and get her to Tokyo.

"Eliza's full-on doing absolutely everything she can to achieve that."

The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to start on July 23.