He’s old enough and good enough for the Olympics, but teenage shot put sensation Jacko Gill will have to apply for a special dispensation to compete in the New Zealand national championships.
The 17-year-old wonderkid, who stunned the country last year with an amazing training video on YouTube, has already surpassed the Olympic selection qualifying distance with a throw of 20.38m and is eligible to compete in London in July and August because he turns 18 this year.
However, Athletics New Zealand has set its qualifying age at 19 for the national track and field championships on March 23, meaning Jacko has to lodge a special plea to be allowed to compete.
His father, Walter, said it was ridiculous that quality athletes could be ineligible to enter competitions in their home country.
If an athlete was capable of competing at a certain level they should be allowed to, no matter how old they were, he said.
“It’s not like Kiwis are soft or anything; we have this macho culture with rugby and everything. If the person is good enough to enter, they should be able to enter.”
Athletics New Zealand said that, as long as Jacko lodged an application, there was no question of his being allowed to compete.
He was one of the big drawcards of the championships, sport manager Brett Addison said. “Of course we do want Jacko to compete … It’s kind of like having an NPC final without Richie McCaw.”
The increased age limit had been put in place to protect athletes who might be pushed too hard by “overenthusiastic” parents or coaches.
“Athletes like Jacko are the exception; that’s why there’s a clause in the rule that says athletes can seek dispensation.
“But it’s the same stuff for most rules you put in place: you don’t make rules for the exceptions, you make rules for most of the people.
“We’re expecting Jacko to apply for dispensation and it’s no big deal, he will be granted it.”
Other athletes had already been given exemptions to compete in events since the rule change last year, which took into account performance and the level the applicant was competing at.
Our Youngest Olympians
Rebecca Perrott, swimming, Montreal 1976. New Zealand’s youngest Olympian, aged 15 years and 29 days at the opening ceremony.
Annabelle Carey, swimming, Athens 2004, 15
Philippa Gould, swimming, Melbourne 1956, 15
Violet Walrond, swimming, Antwerp 1920, 15
Source: New Zealand Olympic Committee and Fairfax NZ News