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Shore People: Nick Southgate

Local pole-vaulter aiming high

Teen pole-vaulter Nick Southgate, who is in the midst of his final year at Rosmini, is a bright hope for New Zealand’s athletics future.

Like many budding Auckland athletes, the 18-year-old treats the Millennium Institute as a second home, training six times a week for up to three hours a session.
It is not surprising that he has already stacked up some notable sporting achievements.
In March he became the youngest New Zealander ever to win the senior men’s pole vault at the National Championships. He is the current national record holder in the M16 and M17 categories, and has equalled the M18 record with a jump of five metres.
Last year he finished fourth at the IAAF World Youth Championships - the best result ever achieved at the event by a New Zealand pole-vaulter.
All things considered, it is clear why he has earned a place as a Gold member on the Rio 2016 Development Squad – meaning he has been identified as an athlete who has the potential to finish in the top 16 at the Rio Olympics.
This month, he is heading to the IAAF Junior World Championships, where he says his biggest competition is himself.
“This year I’m focusing more on getting a personal best than getting a place,” he says. “Ideally I’d love to place in the top five, but anything can happen on the day.”
Nick was a promising athlete from an early age. When he was younger, he was heavily involved in gymnastics. However when wrist injuries started holding him back in the sport, he looked to other options.
His gymnastics coach at the time suggested Nick give pole-vaulting a try. Incidentally, that same gymnastics coach, Jeremy McColl, is Nick’s current coach.
Since taking up pole vaulting, Nick has never looked back, and says he still enjoys every minute of his involvement in the sport.
“The training is really satisfying, I thrive on it. I enjoy pushing myself,” he says. “But I love competition as well - I love the environment, the adrenalin. I love all of it.”
It is just as well he is enjoying himself, because Nick is dreaming big – his long-term goals include the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014 and the Rio Olympics in 2016.
As much as he loves the sport, Nick admits it does have its challenges.
“Funding is an issue,” he says. “My family pays for most of my athletics costs.
“When you do the amount of travel we do, it adds up. We get small grants through organisations like Athletics New Zealand, but the sport isn’t big enough here for us to receive the same type of sponsorships as athletes overseas. At times it’s a struggle, and we’re always looking for some kind of help.”
Nick will be competing at the IAAF World Junior Championships from
July 10-15. We wish him the best of luck!

by Rachel Ramsay