13 Jan 2023

Hammer thrower Julia Ratcliffe retires

10:53 am on 13 January 2023

Three-time Commonwealth Games hammer medallist Julia Ratcliffe has announced her retirement from the sport.

Julia Ratcliffe of New Zealand celebrates after winning the Silver Medal in the Women’s Hammer Throw Final at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

Julia Ratcliffe Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The 29-year-old, who memorably claimed a gold medal at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and finished ninth in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic final, has decided to step away from athletics after enjoying a fulfilling career at the highest level.

Ratcliffe said of her retirement: "I've done all the senior competitions available to me. I know I can throw further, but I also know what that would take out of me.

"The extra joy that would come from throwing another 50cm is not worth the blood, sweat and tears of all that hard training anymore. I look back with huge fondness on my time in the sport, I just now want to try something new."

Born and raised in Hamilton, Julia took up athletics with Hamilton City Hawks at the age "of six or seven" and she initially excelled as a hurdler, claiming the gold medal at the North Island Colgate Games. However, she found her true athletics after she was introduced to hammer at the age of 12.

Coached throughout her career by her father, Dave, she found an aptitude for the discipline and in 2009 - at the age of 15 - she was selected for the World U18 Championships in Italy, where she placed tenth.

She continued to progress through her teenage years and aged 17 she won the first of her six senior national hammer titles in Dunedin. The following year she impressed at the World U20 Championships in Barcelona, finishing fourth with a national senior record of 67m - only 13cm shy of a podium spot.

A head girl and dux at Waikato Diocesan School for Girls in 2011 she moved on to the US to study at the prestigious Princeton University.

Julia Ratcliffe of New Zealand competing at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

Julia Ratcliffe at the 2022 Commonwealth Games Photo: PHOTOSPORT

In 2014 she launched the 4kg hammer beyond 70m for the first time, bettering her New Zealand record with a best of 70.28m and later that year proved her competitive mettle by striking gold at the NCAA Championships and winning a silver medal, aged just 21, at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games with 69.96m.

In 2020 she posted an Oceania record toss of 72.35m at her home venue in Hamilton and secured a fifth national senior title in Christchurch.

The Waikato-raised athlete enjoyed the best distances of her career in 2021. At the New Zealand Track & Field Championships in Hastings she twice bettered her PB, capped by a stunning Oceania record mark of 73.55m before later that year impressing on her Olympic debut in Tokyo. Powering the hammer out to 73.20m she placed sixth in qualification before finishing ninth in the final with a best of 72.69m - an experience she puts on a par with her Commonwealth success in Gold Coast.

"I was immensely satisfied with how I performed in Tokyo," she explains. "Having waited a year because of the postponed Games to finally get there and technically own my first qualification throw, I am so proud."

In the final year of her competitive career, Julia finished 16th in qualification at the World Championships in Eugene before she capped her career in style, winning a silver medal at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games with a best of 69.63m - to win a third successive Commonwealth medal.