New Zealand decathlete Aaron Booth has won gold at the World University Games in Naples, Italy.
Booth, who was the team’s flag-bearer, won New Zealand’s first medal at the meet, and it is the first gold medal New Zealand has won at the event in four years.
The crowd erupted at Sao Paolo Stadium on Wednesday evening as Booth sprinted to victory in the final decathlon event, the 1500m, which was his last event after two days and 10 disciplines.
Prior to competing, Booth was confident in his lead up to the event.
“Although it might sound cocky, I’m confident in what I have achieved this year,” he says.
“I’m going for gold.”
Booth set a new personal best of 7827 points, finishing ahead of second place, Australia’s Alec Diamond by 234 points.
Going into the final 1500m event, Booth was comfortably ahead of the pack. He knew he had won when he finished the race behind teammate Max Attwell.
“It was cool to think, ‘I’ve actually done this.’
“Two years ago going into Taipei, the goal was to come back and win this event.
“Just to know a lot has happened in two years – moving overseas, new coach, new life basically – to be able to still improve and PB at a major event and see what I can achieve is really cool.”
NZ Chef de Mission Evelyn Williamson says she is ‘stoked’ and couldn’t be more proud of Aaron for winning gold and achieving a personal best.
“Aaron has dedicated himself and made a lot of sacrifices over the two years since he won bronze at these games, and his first appearance back in 2015 where he was frustrated with injury. He saw what was possible and had faith that he could be better.
“That effort and perseverance has been rewarded tonight.
“Not only is Booth a standout athlete, “he has shown leadership within our team and a lot of respect and humility toward his competitors throughout the competition. These are the things we Kiwis look for in a champion.”
Booth is grateful for his family’s support, as he had his parents and sister at the games. He is very thankful for his coaches - Cliff Rovelto, Matt Dallow and Jeremy McColl, his performance support staff and the athletics team mates.
Booth’s team mate Max Attwell also set a decathlon personal best with 7420 points; setting personal bests in multiple disciplines along the way.
Attwell finished strongly taking out the 1500m and ultimately finishing fourth overall. Booth acknowledged it was “great to compete against another Kiwi” and is “super proud for him.”
Williamson has only praise for Attwell, commenting that “this is his first University Games and must open his eyes as to what is possible. With a PB a like that, there’s nothing more we could have asked of him. Both Aaron & Max have done New Zealand proud.”
The World University Games is a major international sporting event that is held every two years for student athletes from around the world. This year more than 9,000 athletes from 112 countries are estimated to be competing in Naples at the Games, also known as the Summer Universiade.