Willis was born in Lower Hutt. In 2001 he became the fastest New Zealand high school student, running a mile in 4 minutes and 1.33 seconds.

He first represented New Zealand at the World Junior Championships in Kingston, Jamaica in 2002. Since then he has competed for New Zealand at 19 major championship events.

In 2002, he also began attending the University of Michigan on a full athletics scholarship. He then competed at the 2004 Athens Olympics, where he placed 15th.

At the 2005 Golden League series in Paris, Willis broke John Walker’s 32-year-old 1500m record.

He attended his first Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006, where he won a gold medal in the 1500m.

In 2008 he won a silver medal in the 1500m at the Beijing Olympics and won the Fifth Avenue Mile in New York, beating World Champion Bernhard Lagat. He was the fastest New Zealander to win the race since John Walker in 1984.

At the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, Willis won a bronze medal. Two years later he broke the Oceania 1500m record time and was the flag bearer for New Zealand at the 2012 London Olympics.

It was a bronze medal again for Willis at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. That same year he broke two national records, in the 1500m and 3000m events.

In 2016, he won a bronze medal at the World Indoor Championships in Portland and placed third at the Rio Olympics.

At the 2018 Gold Coast Games, Willis has his sights set on medals in both the 1500m and 5000m events, but the 5000m could be off the cards after an injury in early 2018 set him back in his training schedule.

Willis lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with his wife and two sons.

Nick Willis at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Credit: Photosport