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  • Olympic Medal, Earthquake Relief


    IOC member Barry Maister presents Willis with the silver medal from Beijing. (Getty Images)
    (ATR) New Zealander Nick Willis finally receives his Beijing silver medal in a ceremony even an earthquake could not postpone.

    Nick Willis finished third in the 1500m in Beijing but stepped up to the silver medal after the doping disqualification 18 months ago of first-place finisher Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain.

    He received the new medal in a ceremony Saturday in the capital city of Wellington. The event had been hastily moved from Christchurch, where it was supposed to have taken place on Saturday.

    “It was such an amazing experience in Beijing and it is good to be reminded of it here in Wellington. It’s very special to be presented with the medal in front of my New Zealand friends, family and local fans,” said Willis.

    New Zealand IOC member Barry Maister presented Willis with the medal. It’s the first time an Olympic medal has been presented on New Zealand soil.

    Maister, who is a member of the IOC commission evaluating the bids for the 2018 Winter Olympics, left soon after the ceremony to head to Munich, the last of three bids he and his
    Willis on the track in the 1500m in Wellington. (Getty Images)
    colleagues will scrutinize.

    When the earthquake forced cancellation of the event, Willis and the New Zealand Olympic Committee chose to move it to Wellington. It was to be the third edition of an international track meet annually staged in Christchurch.

    Proceeds from admission and other donations went to the Salvation Army Earthquake Appeal.

    Willis and a dozen or so international athletes, including U.S. record holder Alan Webb, took to the track at Newton Park with a capacity crowd of about 2,000.

    “It’s just phenomenal. Everyone in New Zealand knows someone involved in the earthquake and this is just a fantastic response,” Willis is quoted by the NZOC.

    In addition to an elite 1500m event in which Willis ran a sub-four minute time, there were a men's 800m, women's 1500m, men’s and women’s long jump and a schools relay.

    “It’s an extremely special day and, in light of recent events, a good reason to bring in the crowds and raise money for Christchurch,” said Willis.

    Written by Ed Hula. For general comments or questions, click here.

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