Tokyo Olympics: Dame Valerie Adams fires the shots as 15-strong NZ athletics squad unveiled

By One News / TVNZ and is republished with permission

More than half of the New Zealand athletics team set to compete at the Tokyo Olympics are throwers, led by Dame Valerie Adams who’ll be competing in her fifth games.

Dame Valerie Adams

But at the other end of the spectrum is rising discus star Connor Bell.

At 19 his career is just beginning, and Bell has the youthful enthusiasm to boot.

“I’m still 19, I’m still a teenager, it’s quite a spectacular achievement and I’m incredibly proud of it,” Bell said.

Despite only becoming serious about discus five years ago success didn’t take long to come by, winning a gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games just two years into the sport.

Bell says that initially, the sport was a way of silencing the school bullies, who saw the big country kid who grew up north of Auckland as a target.

“Many kids struggle with getting a hard time at intermediate school and it specifically got me down quite a lot and it’s actually been quite a driver in my passion to do the sport to find myself an identity,” he said.

His parents Jeanette and Stephen have worked hard to create an environment where he can be the best he can be.

“It’s cost us some repaired floorboards because he goes through the spinning routine in the lounge, dining room deck – to this day,”

With throwers usually having long careers, Tokyo is just the beginning and his mentor and now-teammate Dame Valerie Adams is an example of longevity.

Adams was year younger than Bell when she made her Olympic debut at the 2004 Athens games.

The three-time Olympic medallist says that Bell and the other young hopefuls can carry on the torch following her retirement.

“A few years ago I used to think if I retire who’s going to come through now you’re spoilt for choices so I hope from here it continues to grow,” Adams said.

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