Kiwi middle-distance runner Sam Tanner was having himself some Saturday night in New York after running the race of his life at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix.
The 20-year-old Tauranga athlete ran a sizzling 3min 34.72sec to finish third in the 1500 metres at the meet.
Not only did he break Nick Willis New Zealand indoors record (of 3:35.80 set in Birmingham in 2010), but he surpassed the Olympic qualifying standard of 3:35 to all but clinch himself a spot on the start-line in Tokyo.
Im absolutely fizzing, Tanner told Stuff from New York where he was out celebrating his achievement with Willis, who was also in the race, and Geordie Beamish.
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Sam Tanner after winning the 2019 men’s 1500 metres final at the New Zealand championships.
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I am frothing, fizzing, buzzing everything. Im just super over the moon. I was hoping for an Olympic qualification, we worked hard and got it, so Im super stoked.
The achievement was a personal best for the young Kiwi by nearly 2 seconds (he ran 3:36.44 in Tauranga on January 1) and also a US collegiate record.
No Oceania runner had ever ducked under 3:35 indoors before, but both Tanner and race winner Oliver Hoare of Australia did so in New York on Sunday (NZT).
Hoare won in a national record 3:32.35, with Britains Jake Wightman holding off Tanner for second in 3:34.48.
Tanner said he was still coming to terms with the fact he had notched an automatic qualifier for Tokyo, let alone grabbed a special national record.
Im still trying to comprehend how awesome it is, he told Stuff. It is such an honour. Its a dream come true literally because Ive been dreaming about it since I was 12 years old. Im just so, so excited and cant wait for the opportunity to stand on that start line in Tokyo.
Tanner, a sophomore at the University of Washington, said it was even more special to have achieved the feat in the same race alongside his mentor and hero Willis.
Hes always has been a bit of a hero of mine. Im super honoured to be able to run with him and twice Ive beaten his records hes been in the race, so I think that the key is I just need to keep Nick running and I might beat all his records, he added with a smile.
Tanner had previously beaten a number of Willis national age-grade 1500m records in a race they both competed in.
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Sam Tanner speaks to Nick Willis, whose record he broke.
Willis, who has won Olympic bronze and silver over 1500m, finished seventh in the race in 3:37.53.
The 37-year-old later tweeted his excitement at his young compatriots achievement, saying “New Zealand middle distance is in great hands for the next decade”.
Tanner said the Olympic qualifier removed a massive weight from his shoulders for the rest of the season. His next start was likely to be the collegiate indoor nationals.
Im just fizzing. I cant explain how stoked am to get that done. Now I dont have to worry about anything. I can just race.
Tanner said he would now rethink his schedule for the remainder of the year with his two coaches Andy Powell (Washington) and Craig Kirkwood (Tauranga), but it would now be all about giving himself the best possible preparation to run fast in Tokyo.