Stedman ready to run in Tokyo

4:18 pm on 27 August 2021

Christchurch runner Will Stedman feels in a better place heading into his second Paralympics.

New Zealand para-athlete William Stedman trains in Christchurch.


Stedman will compete in the 400 metres and the long jump in Tokyo.

As a 16 year old he picked up two bronze medals at Rio2016 in the 400m and 800m and was fifth in the long jump.

He admits he went to Rio as a schoolboy with not too much to think about.

"I've developed so much as an athlete in the last five years, I turned up in Rio not really sure of myself, but I managed to just do it and while I'm more aware of everything this time, I'm also more prepared."

He's matured both physically and mentally since Rio.

"Last time I was a 16 year old who no one had heard of and this time there is a bit more expectation on me."

That expectation can put pressure on a young athlete, but Stedman has been getting help from mental skills coach John Quinn.

"It's pretty simple really just having a clear race plan, clear routines, what you're going to focus on and realising that I can only control what I can do, but it makes a lot of difference.

His events have also changed since Rio with the Paralympic Games no longer holding an 800m T36 race which means Stedman, who has ataxia, a form of cerebral palsy - needed to switch focus.

He admits training for the longer distance isn't something he misses.

"The 400 still has a reasonable aerobic component so it's still a painful event, but the training has definitely become more specific which is good."

Stedman had a series of injuries following Rio and admits he's still not a hundred percent.

"Injuries are just a part of being an athlete, a had a stress issue in my foot a couple of years ago and I've still got a few niggles, but we're just managing them and I'm feeling really confident that I'll be able to perform to the best of my ability."

Stedman is trained by George Edwards, who won't be in Tokyo, but they'll communicate regularly and will have some live video sessions during training.

Keegan Pitcher (left) and William Stedman celebrate winning silver and bronze in the T36 800m final

Will Stedman and Keegan Pitcher in 2017 Photo: Photosport

All of his training and competition has been restricted to New Zealand because of Covid and a lot of that is with and against able bodied athletes.

"I enjoy a mix, the able bodied athletes give me something to chase which is really good, but I see it as the same because it's a race and the competition is helpful but because I specialise in the 400 and long jump you're just competing against yourself as well."

He also gets support from former swimmer Anna Simcic, who is a High Performance New Zealand Athlete Life Advisor, and has helped Stedman manage his schedule and studies.

Stedman is an electrical engineering student at University of Canterbury and says he was fortunate to be allowed to decrease his study this semester to allow him to focus more on his athletics.

Stedman broke his national 400m F36 record at this year's National Championships and feels he's in good form for Tokyo.

The 21 year old has the 400m heats on August 28th, the long jump is two days later with the 400 final the day after that.

"I want a PB, I want to run and jump the best I can, but who knows what's going to happen on the day with the competition.

"I want a medal in both of my events, but I do just have to concentrate on my performance and hopefully that's enough.

"I'm excited, it's been five years in the making to finally compete at the top level, but I'm definitely nervous which is a good sign, but I'm also just excited to be competing."

Tokyo won't be the end though.

"At this stage I'm definitely planning on heading to Paris, I'm still young so I have the time if I want it."