Catch him while you can because teenage Kiwi sprint sensation Edward Osei-Nketia could be lost to rugby, or Australia.
The 17-year-old Osei-Nketia, son of New Zealand record holder, Gus Nketia, hit the headlines this weekend by winning the Australian senior 100m title in Sydney.
He is now believed to be the world’s second-fastest current junior (under-20), his Sydney semifinal time of 10.19s behind only 18-year-old Jamaican Oblique Seville’s 10.13s.
A New Zealand Athletics official admitted that while Osei-Nketia is considered a Kiwi by the IAAF for now, it is “open slather” for his services, with rugby also well in the frame.
His father, from Ghana, shifted to New Zealand after the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games and went on to wear black at the 1996 Olympics.
Osei-Nketia, who has attended Scots College in Wellington on a scholarship this year, spent the eight previous years in Australia, where he first started sprinting. Following his amazing victory at Sydney’s Olympic Park, the big flyer revealed Aussie officials have approached him about running in the green and gold.
The moment of truth will probably come in July next year at the world junior championships in Kenya. He would be locked in to whichever country he represented there with any subsequent switch requiring a difficult transfer process.
The youngster told Radio Sport: “Yesterday, they [Australian officials] asked me if there would be a chance I’ll represent Australia. I said I don’t know.”
When asked by Radio Sport if he would run for Australia, Osei-Nketia said: “Who knows?”
He is a rugby try scoring machine on the wing for his school, and the Hurricanes are reported to be interested. On athletics v rugby, Osei-Nketia is “weighing” both and will make a decision after leaving school.
“It would be hard to try for the Olympics and also train for rugby,” he said.
Osei-Nketia is now the fourth-ranked all-time Kiwi 100m sprinter, behind his dad, Chris Donaldson and Joseph Millar. His Sydney time sets a new New Zealand under-18, under-19 and under-20 mark. (He is no longer regarded as under-18 by the IAAF, because he turns 18 this year).
New Zealand rarely reaches such levels in world junior athletics, an obvious exception being former world No 1 shot put exponent Jacko Gill from Devonport.
The only Kiwi to make a world junior 100m final was Dean Wise, 23 years ago.
But athletics observers believe Osei-Nketia will struggle in the 100m at senior level, because of his bulk and slow starts. He shapes as a much better 200m exponent while his brother Gus jnr is said to be an outstanding 400m prospect.
Osei-Nketia was born in Auckland and the family moved to Canberra when he was 10.
In January, he said: “My heart, it belongs to the Kiwis.”
NZA statistician Dr Steve Hollings, a 1972 British Olympic steeplechaser, has had extensive communications with the Nketias about eligibility and said: “He was born here and has a New Zealand passport but has done all his running over there. It’s interesting because in the first correspondence I had with Gus, Edward still had a strong feeling for rugby.
“It is up to him to choose one country or the other … it is open slather until he decides.
“It would be silly of New Zealand not to [make a big play for him]. And it may well be that Australia is making a move.
“It is going to be very interesting, with New Zealand v Australia and athletics v rugby. The situation is very fluid.”