Hockey star takes Punt on athletics

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Nelson’s Olympic hockey hero Anita Punt is yet to confirm whether she will run at the New Zealand Track and Field Championship, which is just one week after a five match series against Argentina.

Widely regarded as the fastest female hockey player in the world, Anita was encouraged by sponsor New Balance to run at Saturday’s International Track Meet on the grass track at Christ’s College, Christchurch, where she won the 100m and 300m. In a gusty head wind, Anita – running under the club “hockey” – ran 12.61 seconds to claim victory in a photo finish. Anita then eased off to win the 300m in 39.60 seconds.

But the question on everybody’s lips is whether she will go one step further and attempt to become New Zealand’s fastest women at next month’s nationals in Auckland. “Going into the ITM there was no expectations except for what I put on myself, which is good. But now there are a lot of expectations, people wondering what am I going to do next,” she says. “Everyone just wants to know, but I’m not saying yes. I’m not saying no. I am definitely interested but it’s hard because I’m not going to have a lot of prep. I’ll have about a week and that’s not great.”

Not a single athletics club in New Zealand was yet to snap up the Wellington-based Nelsonian. “They’re not allowed to at the moment,” she jokes.

Anita is certain that hockey remains her number one sport and says athletics “is just for fun.” But she was going to sit down with Blacksticks coach Mark Hager and track coach Scott McLaren this week to discuss the juggling act. “Hopefully I’ll be able to do a little bit more. Scott is really understanding, he knows hockey is first and he’s willing to help. Mark was supportive and he’s really happy, he just wants to make sure hockey is still ahead of athletics.”

As for other sportspeople taking a punt on the track, Anita would highly recommend it. “If that’s a desire – I had always wondered – but it’s a different side and I like experiencing the individual side of sport. I have a new respect for individual athletes. I definitely say give it a go.”

Meanwhile at the same meet, Nelson’s Alex Jordan put himself back on the map, winning a stacked 300m field in 34.13 seconds and then anchoring the South Island 4×330 relay team to a tight .04 second victory over the North Island team.