Tiaan Whelpton has a strong wrinkle and admits to being intrigued by the prospect of a post-athletic bender.
Rugby has already called up New Zealand’s hottest prospects for 100 metres, and Tiaan Whelpton admits he’s been intrigued by the chance of suffering a concussion at some stage while in his prime.
But the 22-year-old South African, home-grown Christie told the emotional rush Stuff that he is tired of the hope of his size – he stands 1.96 meters – and his speed – 100 PB is 10.18 seconds, but the breath stood at 10.09sec – to a code more than familiar. however, his focus remains firmly on the track and field where he looks to become the first Kiwi to break the 10-second barrier.
Whelpton confirmed in an interview with Stuff he has already been approached by New Zealand Rugby about the possibility of moving into the sevens development, where his speed would have been most definitely shown, and which is considered ideal for the 15-man game.
“People were talking about rugby,” Whelpton said.
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“I was more of a rugby player growing up. I played very well in both England and South Africa, and I went to one of the biggest rugby schools in the world at the Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosch.
“There is certainly a lot of rugby there. My father was a rugby player himself, and I spoke to some of the guys at the New Zealand sevens. But my heart lies in the race and I am there to do as much as I can.
“Who knows? Maybe once I’m done with the race, once I break the 10-second barrier, maybe I could be the first under-10 rugby player.
Tiaan Whelpton equaled the New Zealand resident record in the 100m final at the Potts Classic in May 2022.
It is not a far-fetched idea. Whelpton’s main Kiwi 100m rival, Canberra-based Eddie Osei-Nketia, has repeatedly floated the prospect of beating rugby, and has also been linked with a move to the famous Peregrines program.
However, Osei-Nketia, who broke his father’s national record of 100m in Portland at the last world championship, was recently confirmed to be taking up a scholarship in American football at the University of Hawaii as he looks to fulfill his ambition of playing in the NFL.
Whelpton fully supports the friend’s call — “it’s a wise decision” — even if it robs him of his main rival by the time they both knock loudly on the door of the 10-second barrier.
“He’s lucky,” he said. “It will be good for his mental health. He really got down when the Commonwealth Games inspired him. This change will be refreshing for him.
“It’s definitely a shame not to have him around because he’s such a fantastic athlete, but last season he ran one race all the way here. The goal is to get to a place where I can run the same race with my race or with people pushing me.”
But Whelpton has seen Osei-Nketia’s controversial omission from last year’s state Games team – whose folly he highlighted when he ran 10.08sec in Portland to break his father’s 25-year-old record.
The young athlete, who is looking to run 10.00sec or better as an automatic spot at this year’s world championships or next year’s Olympics, says the tough standards are part and parcel of running in the pinnacle event.
“He couldn’t really do much for Athletics NZ,” he said. “Of course they would have loved to send Eddie, but unfortunately the NZOC and the Olympic Council don’t specialize in the sport, so we don’t know the details.
“For them you’re a graph or a number, they don’t look at the potential, or consider how special it is to have a pacemaker in the black singlet 100m. At younger ages it’s cool to see them doing well, and I’m all about exciting younger athletes.
But Whelpton believes he can still make things happen, such as Budapest this year and Paris next, running faster than any Kiwi ever has. He has a busy schedule ahead of him this end of the season as he aims to get closer to that 10-second mark, with two major visits to Australia interspersed with his main home events at ITM in Christchurch, the nationals in Wellington and SGD. They met in Auckland.