Middle distance legend Sir John Walker is to present the Olympic silver medal to Beijing 1500m medallist Nick Willis at the International Track Meet in Christchurch on February 26th, the New Zealand Olympic Committee announced today.
Willis originally received the bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games but was subsequently upgraded to silver following the disqualification of Rashid Ramzi for a doping violation. Willis expressed his delight at being presented with the medal by his boyhood hero, describing it as "a great, great honour".
The presentation will also be a proud moment for Walker who will be the first New Zealander to present an Olympic medal on home soil. "Christchurch, and QEII in particular, holds special memories for me. That is where it all really started for me after I chased (Tanzanian Filbert) Bayi home for Commonwealth silver in the 1500m with both of us finishing under the world record.
"It's great to see a Kiwi like Nick doing so well and I'm delighted to be part of what will be a very proud moment for him, his family and all New Zealanders."
New Zealand Olympic Committee Secretary General Kereyn Smith says the Bayi-Walker battle for silver is one of the greatest races of all time and Nick's Beijing race had millions of Kiwis on the edges of their seats. "It's entirely fitting Sir John presents Nick with Olympic silver at QEII stadium. It's an opportunity for us all to recall some of our nation's proudest moments."
Walker also won bronze in the 800m at QEII at the 1974 Commonwealth Games before going on to break the world record for the mile in a time of 3m50sec in 1975. He also set the world record in the 2000m in 1975 that would stand for more than a decade. He won the Olympic 1500m gold medal at Montreal in 1976, added a second Commonwealth 1500m silver medal at Brisbane in 1982, and in 1985 became the first man in history to clock up 100 sub-4min miles.
Willis will be seeking to follow in his idol's footsteps in the International Track Meet, when he races in the 1500m against top Americans Nick Symmonds and Will Leer, British runner Lee Emmanuel, and two high profile Australians who performed here last year, Beijing Olympian Jeremy Roff and rising star James Nipperess.
With the London Olympic Games just over 500 days away, Willis will be one of the highest profile New Zealand athletes expected to be selected into the 200-strong team.
Willis' silver medal will be presented as part of the Opening Ceremony of the International Track Meet at QEII stadium in Christchurch on 26th February at 1800h. New Zealand IOC member Barry Maister will lead the medal presentation.
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