Athletics: Rising Kiwi track star Maia Ramsden juggles Harvard studies with Paris Olympics dreams

  • 25/11/2023
Maia Ramsden.
Maia Ramsden. Photo credit: Getty Images

By Barry Guy (RNZ)

Finishing off a degree at Harvard and trying to qualify for the Olympics is something young New Zealand runner Maia Ramsden is taking in her stride.

The well-travelled middle distance athlete has often dreamt of wearing the black singlet and she hopes that will happen in 2024.

The 21-year-old, who was born in the US, has a New Zealand father and an American mother.

Ramsden hit the headlines in June with victory in the NCAA 1500m, setting a personal best of 4m 08.6s

Maia's father works for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and she moved around a lot as a youngster with her father's work.

She has lived in New York, Wellington, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Ethiopia.

In 2020, she moved back to Wellington to start University and for the last couple of years has been at the private Ivy League university in Massachusetts.

She's now close to qualifying for an Olympics, something that probably didn't cross her mind as a youngster competing in Weetbix Tryathlons in Wellington.

Athletics: Rising Kiwi track star Maia Ramsden juggles Harvard studies with Paris Olympics dreams

"It is my main goal going into 2024," Ramsden told RNZ.

"It's definitely my dream, and I think more of a concrete goal now more than it has ever been."

Ramsden took up running seriously while she was at secondary school in Fiji and not long after set her sights on representing New Zealand.

She studies History and Literature at Harvard and will graduate in May, just two months before the Paris Olympics.

She hopes to have impressed selectors by then.

Her aim is to get to the World Indoor Championships in Glasgow in March and will continue to keep up an intense training programme while she finishes off her degree.

So, is representing New Zealand in the 1500m in 2024 realistic?

"I need to run a bit quicker than I have but my coach thinks that's possible and so that's the first step, taking a few more seconds off my PB's."

With the IAAF now allowing qualification on rankings as well as time, that could help.

"For me it means there is a pathway to Olympic qualification which would be just a dream come true."

She will have to get invites to some high-ranking events in North America and Europe, to improve her chances.

"My coach (Harvard coach Alex Gibby) and I have talked about what we need to do to make it happen, however I recognise that I'm young and it's a hard team and event to make."

She will also have to juggle her time between running and studies.

"Obviously I have some other obligations with school, but I think it is still very possible and that's my goal.

"With the school it's like a bit of a distraction, it gives me something else to do and be excited and passionate about.

"I do hope to have many years ahead of me in this sport, so if it doesn't happen, I'll be a bit disappointment but I won't be devastated and so I'll be able to use that as motivation the next time around."

Ramsden has the support of shoe manufacturer On Running, which under new NCAA rules allows a relationship while she continues her studies.