USA can’t catch him

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For a Queenstown athlete to become a New Zealand champ-ion is one thing but how about winning a United States championship?

That’s what’s happened to nine-year-old Wilem Wikstrom.

On December 1, on a very muddy course in Knoxville, Tennessee, he won the nine-and-10-year division of the 3km cross country US nationals.

His time, 12min 18.7sec, was almost 14 seconds faster than the runner-up.

The former Queenstown Primary School student moved with his family to New York three years ago – his dad John is co-founder and North American president of Queenstown-based global souvenir-photo and video business Magic Memories.

Wilem qualified for the nationals with top-three placings in state and regional races.

He’s been top-three in age-group US cross country nationals for the past two years, as well as in indoor and outdoor track national.

He’s also been New York State’s ‘cross country all-age group athlete of the year’ for the past two years, and has broken several long-standing 3km cross country records this year.

Wilem trains four days a week, two to three hours per session, with the Manhattan-based Chelsea Greyhounds.

Coach Ron Guialdo puts his success down to courage, discipline, dedication, doing what he’s told “and a mental toughness that can impress anyone”.

The other ingredient, he says, is strong support from his parents Maria and John.

“It is the perfect combination.”

Wilem says his ambition is to be an Olympic middle- to long-distance runner.

scoop@scene.co.nz