Jumping hurdles to Olympic dream

Michael Cochrane.

At age three, hurdler Michael Cochrane was more focused on collecting the cones that lined the track than finishing the race.

Now, the 24-year-old former Bethlehem College student is 0.18 seconds off receiving immediate qualification into the 2016 Rio Olympics – a blink of an eye from his childhood dream.

The 400m hurdler is fundraising about $6000 for an Olympic qualifying tour in Europe on May 20-July 11. If he is selected for Rio, Michael will stay a further three weeks training for the Olympics.

The New Zealand qualifying system consists of A and B standards. Michael has achieved two B standards for the 2016 Olympics, but to secure selection he must achieve an A standard.

He holds a New Zealand 400m hurdle record of 49.58 seconds but needs to run 49.40 to secure Olympic selection.

“By running two B standards I can still be selected but it’s more based on where I’m ranked in the world,” says Michael, who is currently in Perth training with coach and former Australian champion hurdler Lyn Foreman.

“If I’m still in the top 40 I can get an invite to the games. But if I get an A standard, I go to the games regardless of my ranking.

“Basically, I just want to get that A standard just so I can well and truly get my name on there, rather than having to wait right up until the games before I find out if I’m ranked in a good position to be able to go.

“I ran the 49.58 [second time] at world champs and I did that when I was well and truly peaking, so I was pretty close.

“So I’m thinking this year if I just train a little bit harder and get a little bit faster, dip a bit more at the line, then I should be able to knock off that little bit of extra time.”

Michael attempted to qualify for the 2012 Olympics at age 20, but was unsuccessful. He also missed selection standard to the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow by 0.02 seconds. “I was quite a bit younger back then, so I was a bit further off those ones.

“But this one [the Rio Olympics] is closer to my peak age for athletics. It’s the real chance, the real shot.

“I want to hit it hard for this one but hopefully get the next ones as well.”

Michael comes from a family of athletes, with his sister Rebecca, dad Andy, and grandfather George all competing at a national level in athletics.

“Dad would always have the athletics on,” says Michael. “I remember at one point saying that I’d be going to the Olympics when I was young. So getting to this stage and it’s still on the cards is pretty exciting.

“Regardless of getting a medal or not, just becoming an Olympian would be the dream. Just being in that setting would be really nice, knowing I’ve achieved it – a bit of a weight off the shoulders.”

Dad Andy and mum Angela, who are teachers at Matua Primary School and Bethlehem College respectively, spent many weekends travelling the countryside to various athletic meetings as Michael represented Bellevue Athletic Club and Tauranga Ramblers, giving him the foundation for his subsequent success.

“When he was about three years old we took him down to the Massey Athletic Club when we lived in Auckland and he decided it was a good idea to run down the track and collect the cones along the way, rather than focusing on finishing the race,” says Andy.

“It’s always been a bit of a joke that here he is now going from being distracted by the cones on the side of the track to actually jumping over the hurdles and going to the Olympics.”

Andy says Michael has broken the New Zealand record more than once. “He increases his own record. “The last time he broke it was in Beijing last year at the world champs where he ran 49.58.

“He’s obviously come a long way. Ever since about age 12 he made that decision and he’s never looked back. It’s been total self-determination right from the word go.

“It’s quite surreal sometimes when you’re watching TV and he’s there taking an interview and we go: ‘That’s our son’. It’s amazing. To see him competing on that world stage, my wife and I are hugely proud of what he’s achieved.”

Until July 11, it’s a waiting game for that A standard. To donate, visit www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/mike2olympics

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