It was more than 20 years before Zoe Hobbs was born that New Zealand last had a female sprinter in a major international 100m final. Her blistering start to the 2023 sprint season suggests she may be on a trajectory towards achieving this feat – her recent AIMES Supreme Award win bolstering her chances of success on the world stage.
The North Shore athlete burst out of the blocks at the World Indoor Athletics Championships in Belgrade last year in a race that marked her elevation onto the world sprint stage. Her 7.13 second 60 metres turned heads, landing her an Oceania 60m record and placing her just outside the top ten female indoor sprinters in the world. (She missed a final place by2/100ths of a second.) Not bad, for what was only the second time she had ever entered the short sprint event.
A World Athletics Championships outdoor 100m semi-final last year and a sixth place in at the 2022 Commonwealth Games were built on in fine style in her first races of 2023. In her season opener at the New Zealand nationals, she was coming back from in injury. Her performance, and the way she built on this in her subsequent 100m season openers, surprised even her. “It’s really exciting,” says Zoe. “I didn’t expect to open the season the way I did. I’d just had a hamstring injury and I approached my first races of the season just wanting to feel healthy!”
She broke the elusive sub-11 second 100m mark with a blistering 10.89 second run, but with an illegal wind limit. She followed this with a legal 10.97 however, at the 2023 Sydney Track Classic, earning herself not only a New Zealand record but an Australian all-comers record.
“Being in such a relaxed state of mind meant I had no expectations. That really took a weight off my shoulders. When you are trying to chase a specific time, it can add so much pressure. But I didn’t feel this as I wasn’t expecting that much from myself. I just wanted to finish these races feeling fit.”
Her sub-11 second performances gained her entry into the prestigious International Diamond League. A fifth place in a top calibre international sprint field in Doha on May 6 this year was an undisputed announcement of her talent on the world athletics stage.
“Going under 11 seconds was a pretty incredible moment. That three-week period was madness for me! Even though I knew I was capable of running it [a sub-11 second 100m], I didn’t expect it to happen so early in the season. Sometimes when you run your best race, you don’t actually feel like it was your best race. It wasn’t until I heard it over the loud speaker that I realised what time I’d run.”
The 25 year-old has spent much of the past decade training at AUT Millennium with its nationally incomparable athletics facilities, and has made the Shore her home. She’s lived in various parts of the North Shore since moving to Auckland from Taranaki in 2016. After a trip to Europe for the northern hemisphere’s summer athletics season, she will be settling into a new place in Birkenhead.
Zoe also chose to study at university on the Shore, completing a Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition at Massey University. Since then, she has co-founded Athos, a nutrition business and app, alongside her burgeoning athletics career.
Being recognised for her excellence in sport by members of the North Harbour Club in the region she loves at last month’s AIMES Awards was a huge moment for Zoe.
“It was a real shock,” she says, with wide eyes. “I had never been to an AIMES Award event; it was such an amazing occasion to be a part of. There was so much incredible talent on display, I was absolutely blown away.
“There’s no way I expected my name to be called out when they were announcing the Supreme Award at the end. I had to wing the second speech I ended up having to make – I honestly hadn’t prepared for that at all!”
Zoe took home both the AIMES Sport Award and AIMES Supreme Award, winning $30,000 towards the pursuit of her goals. These include the upcoming 2023 World Athletics Championships in Belgrade in August and qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“I’m so grateful for this funding, which will help me work towards my Paris Olympic goals. It’s such a generous prize. I’m so grateful for this support.”
Despite chasing big goals, Zoe is mindful of staying grounded and keeping it fun. “To stay motivated I have to set goals. I am so driven by having a goal to work towards and achieve. I love a challenge; that’s how I keep my love of sport and keep pushing.
“I am really lucky to have the support team I have around me, who help manage the mental and physical sides of competing.” Zoe has been with her coach James Mortimer since 2016 and engages with various high performance sport professionals.
“The biggest thing, to me, is to have fun. That’s when I have performed at my best – when I have been relaxed and having fun. That’s what sport is meant to be about.”
2023 Award Recipients
There were 26 recipients of AIMES Awards in 2023 across three categories of awards which carried grants worth over $200,000. This includes AIMES letter awards (AIMES = Arts; Innovation; Music; Education; Sport; Service to the Community and two special awards), AIMES Emerging Talent Awards and AIMES Scholarship Awards. The full list of the 2023 recipients is detailed below.
AIMES Award winners for 2023
AIMES Supreme Award and Sport Award – Zoe Hobbs (25), athlete/sprinter
Receiving a grant of $30,000 and the Sir Peter Blake Trophy.
AIMES Arts Award – Asa Waller (19), ballet dancer
AIMES Innovation Award – Alexia Hilbertidou (24), entrepreneur
AIMES Music Award – Tayla Alexander (22), singer
AIMES Education Award – Lily Holloway (24), writer/poet
AIMES Sports Award – Cameron Gray (19), swimmer
AIMES Service to the Community Award – Spencer Potbury (23), scientist and conservationist.
All letter winners above receive a grant of $15,000.
AIMES Judges Award – Joshua Kirk (25), musical conductor (receiving a grant of $10,000).
AIMES Ross Finlayson Award – Jannik Wittgen (21), engineer and community leader (receiving an Outward Bound course to be taken in 2024).
AIMES Emerging Talent Award winners for 2023
Anja Filip (18), environmental Leader
Henry Meng (18), pianist
Liku Sipkes (19), diver
Maggie Squire (17), diver
Rico Bearman (19), BMX athlete
Sarina Todd (20), community leader and innovator
Sienna Going (16), ballet dancer
All Emerging Talent winners above receive a grant of $7,500.
AIMES Scholarship Award recipients for 2023
Alfie Steedman (16), athlete/runner
Benji Groen (14), ballet dancer
George Lee Rush (18), sailor
Seb Menzies (18), sailor
Isabelle Ning (13), chess player
Jaden Movold (19), para athlete
Lauren Wycherley (14), ballet dancer
Madeleine Xiao (18), pianist
Shan Liu (13), pianist
Yuzhang Wu (16), pianist
All Scholarship winners above receive a grant of $3000.
For more information visit northharbourclub.co.nz
Thanks to the ongoing support of our fantastic sponsors