Rebecca Wardell was born in 1977 in Oamaru and was raised on her family’s sheep farm. Rebecca started dreaming of competing against the world’s best athletes when she was just seven years old. She was inspired to become an Olympian while watching the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games on television.
Always a keen, talented and driven athlete, Rebecca played lots of sports at school. After she left Rangi Ruru Girl’s School in 1995, she decided to seriously focus on athletics. She focused originally on the 400m running and 400m hurdles, representing New Zealand at the 2001 and 2005 World University Games and the 2003 World Championships. When she wasn’t selected for New Zealand’s Olympic Games team in 2004, she turned her attention to the heptathlon, which involves competing in seven events over two days. Rebecca trained hard to become an all-rounder who could jump, throw and run at a world-class level.
Rebecca’s training and determination paid off. In 2006 she became the national heptathlon champion and came seventh at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games. Then, in 2008 Rebecca’s childhood dream came true, when she competed in the heptathlon at the Beijing Olympic Games. She placed twenty-second and rates the experience of competing in the Bird’s Nest stadium with the world’s best athletes as one of the best moments of her sporting career.
After Beijing, Rebecca set herself a new goal – to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games. Rebecca enjoys all of the heptathlon disciplines, but her favourite is javelin. She usually scores well in the shot put, javelin and 800m. Her personal best heptathlon score is 6108.
Rebecca’s all-roundedness extends beyond track and field. In 2010, she completed a master's degree in transport engineering. After that, she became a full-time athlete, which meant she was able to train hard for the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games. At the Games, Rebecca was in fourth place towards the end of the first day. With just the 200m to run, she was a serious medal contender. However, during the 200m, she twisted her foot and had to be carried off the track. She had a hairline fracture in her foot, which ended her medal hopes.
Due to the injury, Rebecca could not run for almost a year. In training, she replaced running with rowing, cycling, swimming and lots of strength training. This new regime ended up working in her favour, giving her a good base and making her stronger than ever before. She set her sights on the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Unfortunately, there were more setbacks to come. The February 2011 Christchurch Earthquake damaged Rebecca’s training facilities in Christchurch. The on-going aftershocks also disrupted her training, forcing Rebecca to leave her home in Canterbury and shift to Dunedin.
However, in 2012, she was forced to abandon her London campaign 6 weeks before the Olympic Game due to a hamstring injury. Rebecca was heartbroken – in the best shape of her career, she was on track for a personal-best points tally and had planned to end her career on an Olympic high. Despite this huge disappointment, Rebecca still remains focused on her career’s highs, rather than the lows.
Coach: Andrew Maclennan
Club: Old Boys United Christchurch
2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games
2008 Beijing Olympic Games
2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games
2005 World Universaide, Izmir
2003 World Track & Field Championships, Paris
2001 World Universaide, Beijing
NEW ZEALAND CHAMPIONSHIPS
Heptathlon 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010
400m Hurdles 2003, 2004
100m Hurdles 2004
NEW ZEALAND RECORDS
400m Hurdles 2003, 4x100m, 4x400m
Heptathlon 6108 Ratingen 2008
400m Hurdles 56.25 Dunedin 2003
Shot Put 15.30m Ratingen 2012