29 May 2024

Record-setting run propels James Preston to Paris Olympics

6:42 pm on 29 May 2024
James Preston (R) leads Sam Tanner during the men's 800m at the national track and field championships in Wellington.

James Preston (R) leads Sam Tanner during the men's 800m at the national track and field championships in Wellington. Photo: Athletics NZ

It's been a big week for Wellington runner James Preston.

On Sunday morning, the 27-year-old broke the late Sir Peter Snell's national record in the 800m. Two days later he woke up to confirmation he'd been named to the New Zealand team for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

"This is something I've been working towards for a long time," Preston said.

"It's really exciting to get the opportunity to wear the fern on that Olympic stage and get to showcase the effort my team has put in during the build up."

Preston clocked a blistering 1:44.04s to win the men's 800m at the Merck Running Festival meet in Pfungstadt, Germany on Sunday. The time eclipsing Snell's 62-year-old New Zealand record, and then the world record mark of 1:44.30s. The time also surpassing the Olympic entry standard.

"The (Olympic) entry standard is the main thing for me with the record being a bonus. Everything has been geared up in terms of trying to qualify, but to be able to do that makes our plan for the next couple of months a wee bit easier and less stressful around the build-up," Preston said post-race.

"In terms of Snell's record, he did so much for middle-distance running in New Zealand the best way to honour what he did was to try and better it, so to be able to do that is amazing. I'm hoping that someone will come along and break my record one day and better what I've done."

The 2024 campaign has been a breakout year for Preston. In March, he ran a NZ 800m indoor record of 1:47.59 at the World Indoor Championships in Glasgow. Later that month he made a huge breakthrough to climb to number two on the all-time New Zealand lists, running 1:44.87 to win the New Zealand national title in Wellington - and also come within 0.17 of the Olympic entry standard mark.

Preston is an engineer and is coached by Evan Cooper. The men's 800m heats at Paris 2024 will be held on 7 August with finals to follow two days later.

He joins 15 other athletes who were earlier named for the Olympics.

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