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Preston's record gains place in Paris Olympics

Updated: Jun 7

A big week for Wellington runner James Preston with a record and Olympic selection
Wellington runner James Preston broke the NZ 800m record and has been selected for the Paris Olympics PHOTO: ATHLETICS NZ

It’s been a big week for Wellington runner James Preston who broke Sir Peter Snell’s New Zealand record in the 800m and has now been confirmed to the New Zealand Team for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

“This is something I’ve been working towards for a long time,” said 27-year-old Preston.


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“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 morning.

The time eclipsed Snell’s 62-year-old New Zealand record, and then 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,” said Preston post-race.

“This performance sets me up for the next couple of months. We aren’t as focused on running the standard right now, so hopefully I’ll get in some more competitions and run a wee bit faster.

“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 NZ 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 by trade and is coached by Evan Cooper.

The men’s 800m heats at Paris 2024 will be held on August 7th, with finals to follow on the 9th and 10th.


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