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Kiwi high jump champ and Paris Olympian Hamish Kerr’s secret weapon

The record-breaking Kiwi is by leaps and bounds our shoo-in for the Paris podium
Hamish Kerr sitting on a high-jump mat with the pole across his lap

Hamish Kerr was just seven years old when he watched New Zealand triathlete Hamish Carter win a gold medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004. Twenty years on, the world indoor high jump champion and 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medal winner is one of New Zealand’s brightest track and field gold medal hopes as he prepares to head to Paris for the 2024 Olympics.

“I always loved athletics at primary school. Over the years, I took it more and more seriously as I realised I could be pretty good at it!” smiles the 1.98-metre athlete.

“As a child, I was always outside playing sports. I played football and rugby mainly, then athletics in the summer.

“But it wasn’t until I equalled the then-national high jump record of 2.30 metres in 2019 that I truly realised the dream of being an Olympian could be achieved.”

The Christchurch-based star, whose 2.36-metre jump in Glasgow in March secured him not just gold, but also the highest jump of the year worldwide, is spurred on by a small village of supporters, including his father Andrew, mum Bridget, girlfriend and fellow high-performance athlete Maddie Wilson, 22, and his best friend-turned-coach James Sandilands.

Hamish flying the New Zealand flag after his Commonwealth win
Bring it on! Hamish says he “loves the feeling when all the hard work pays off”.

“I’ve looked up to Mum and Dad my whole life,” says Hamish, 27. His mum Bridget is a speech therapist, and dad Andrew is a cardiologist at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital. “I didn’t idolise athletes when I was growing up. But Dad’s work ethic and his commitment to achieving his goals is as strong as any athlete I’ve ever met. He’s the perfect example of how the habits and routines of high performers can be found in anyone, not just Olympians.”

When he’s on the track, having his best mate by his side has been a huge asset for Hamish as he prepares for Paris and, hopefully, an Olympic medal.

“James and I competed together at high school, but we didn’t really know each other as I grew up in Auckland and he was from Timaru. I always looked up to him as he was so much better than me!

“When I moved to Christchurch to train full-time in 2018, I met him again at the track. He happened to have a spare room available at his flat when I was looking for somewhere to live. James, his now-wife Hannah and I all lived together for about two years and became close.”

Hamish standing between his parents, both of them looking up at their smiling son
With parents Andrew and Bridget.

At the time, James was transitioning from being an athlete to a coach. He joined Hamish’s support team as a biomechanist – someone who studies the mechanical aspects of human motion, helping to improve athletes’ performance and reduce injury.

“I never thought I wanted him as my coach as we are such close friends. I didn’t want to jeopardise the relationship,” admits Hamish. “But when my old coach decided to step back, he was the perfect person to step into the role.”

Once they step away from work, though, the pair make time to just hang out – as he does with Maddie, with whom he also trains.

“We spend a lot of time together, in training and out,” says Hamish. He describes his perfect day “at the beach sunbathing with a good book and a nice meal out with Maddie”.

But at the moment, the focus for Hamish and his team is making the most of every minute.

“There are so many ways to be an amazing athlete,” he explains. “For me, it’s about optimism and discipline. A lot of my training is very repetitive, so discipline and not straying from your routine is vital.”

Hamish with his arm around girlfriend Maddie's shoulder
With girlfriend Maddie.

He does, however, have one Achilles’ heel – food.

“In terms of nutrition, I’m not as strict as you’d probably think,” he says. “I focus on having three good meals a day – especially breakfast – and not having too many unhealthy snacks. That’s easier said than done as I love snacking. Whether it’s a bag of lollies, a block of chocolate or a bag of chips, sign me up!”

While that all-important Olympic medal is a focus for Hamish, it’s not the main thing he’s looking forward to. The talented athlete says he’s just looking forward to competing on the world stage.

“Covid made the last Olympics pretty restricted. This time I’m really looking forward to experiencing the buzz of Paris as Olympic fever ignites the city,” he says. “I’m so looking forward to it. I love the feeling when all the hard work pays off. When you win at a competition or achieve a personal best.”

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