AUCKLAND (Reuters) - Shot putter Valerie Adams will have the opportunity to become the first woman to win the event at three successive Olympics after she was named in New Zealand's initial athletics squad for this year's Rio de Janeiro Games on Friday.
Adams, whose injury-hit 2015 season was ended by knee surgery, won gold in Beijing and London and should challenge for the title again in Rio, as she hopes to move clear of Tamara Press of the former Soviet Union as the only women to have won the title twice.
The 31-year-old, who was awarded the gold in London after Belarus' Nadzeya Ostapchuk tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, took bronze at the world indoor championships in Portland last month.
Nick Willis, the Beijing 1,500 meters silver medalist, joins Adams at their fourth Games. Willis also won bronze in Portland.
World indoor shot put champion Tom Walsh, who threw a season-leading 21.78 to clinch gold in Oregon and has three of the five leading throws outdoors this year, has also been named to compete at his first Olympics.
The 24-year-old Walsh, who finished fourth at last year's world championships in Beijing, will be joined in the event by two-time world junior champion Jacko Gill, who was ninth in Portland.
"Our team is an exciting mix of multi-medal winning Olympic and world champions and new emerging talent selected for their first Games, across a broad spread of event disciplines from shot put to 10,000m," Athletics New Zealand chief executive Linda Hamersley said.
"Since the London Olympics in 2012, we have seen tremendous growth in the depth and breadth of our new athletic talent which we look to continue through to Tokyo (in 2020) and 2024."
A further selection announcement is to be made in July.
Initial squad: Valerie Adams (shot put), Stuart Farquhar (javelin), Jacko Gill (shot put), Nikki Hamblin (1,500m), Eliza McCartney (pole vault), Angie Petty (800m), Quentin Rew (50km walk), Zane Robertson (10,000m), Tom Walsh (shot put), Nick Willis (1,500m)
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O'Brien)