We are passionate about helping people realise their full potential. That’s why we are sponsoring five athletes who are part of the Performance Potential Squad (PPS), a programme that prepares young athletes for future success. In this interview, we speak with 22-year-old high jumper, Hamish Kerr, one of our nation’s future athletic stars.
1. High jump is quite a niche skill. When did you first realise you had a special talent for it?
Well, I’m six foot six so it had to be this or basketball didn’t it! But my focus hasn’t always been on high jump. In secondary school I focused more on running than high jump. Up until the age of 18, I’d never won a national title in high jump and then I won three in one season. In winning those nationals I jumped 2.14m [more than seven foot] which was about the seventh best height of all time in New Zealand, and I was the youngest athlete ever in New Zealand to jump that. But even after that, I didn’t compete again for about 18 months.
2. During those 18 months, did anyone encourage you to return to competition?
I was quite fortunate actually. I moved to Palmerston North and Anne Thompson, the coach there, didn’t put pressure on me but she kept in touch with me every week. My priority at the time was university studies. Then, when I had a year left on my degree, my priorities changed and I decided to push myself with high jump again.
3. That’s interesting that you mentioned “priorities”. At Robert Walters, we talk with professionals about setting career goals aligned with personal priorities. It sounds like you took a similar approach to return to high jump competition.
I’ve always been really big on goal setting, whether it’s life goals, university goals or sport goals. I knew that once I had my degree, nobody could take that away from me. You’ve got that for life. So then I thought, “All being well, my brain isn't going to degrade for many years but my legs are”. High jump is something I love. Something I’m good at. So high jump became my priority.
4. When did you realise you had the potential to reach the very top?
In 2017, I represented New Zealand for the first time at the World University Games in Taiwan. It’s a really high quality comp and some of the best athletes in the world were there. Not just young ones, but senior athletes compete there too. I was ranked about 25th coming into the comp but ended up coming 13th. That was what made me realise that I had world-class potential. Because looking at the guys I was up against, they weren’t any better than me. They were just more developed and had been doing this a few more years than I had.
Having that team with me on the journey and helping me improve has been essential to my growth.
5. You’re currently a part of the PPS, of which Robert Walters is a sponsor. How is that helping you reach your goals?
Before PPS I had done a lot of work on my own, which was how I assumed it was supposed to be. I’m the only one who is out there jumping after all. But now I have regular access to a team of specialists [including a coach, physio, nutritionist, and experts in mental skills and biomechanics]. Having that team with me on the journey and helping me improve has been essential to my growth.
6. What are your future goals and how do you stay on track to achieve them?
The big dream is to win a medal at the 2024 Paris Olympics. Everything that we do prior to that is essentially setting up for that. I have yearly, monthly and weekly goals. It’s essentially like running a little business. People don’t always understand when I don’t take public holidays off or go away with mates for five days over New Year etc. But it’s like: if you owned your own business and you stopped, do you think the money would keep coming in? High jump is not about money, of course, but if I stop the body stops and the progress stops.
Robert Walters helps NZ athletes achieve their potential, find out more about our sponsorship.
Our athletes all have their own story to tell, read their stories here.