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McNeill and Wellings selected to chase big Rio Olympic goals

8 January 2016

RIO 2016: The first runners selected to represent Australia at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro are David McNeill and Eloise Wellings, in the 10,000m.

Both athletes say their lead-up campaigns are much improved from their debut Games in 2012 and expect to do much better in August.

Wellings, 33, was a finalist (21st) in the 10,000m London after years of being so close to that Olympic tracksuit. Now she has achieved that childhood dream, the first mother to be selected on the 2016 Australian Olympic Team, is ready to reach her full potential in Rio.

“Probably the biggest difference between London and Rio is I was almost happy to be there in a way in 2012 but always in the back of my head I’ve known that I am capable of so much more performance wise,” Wellings from Sydney said.

“Because I’d been measured for three Olympic uniforms, the first one being Sydney when I was 16 years old, and then it took me another 12 years to actually make the Team.

“Now I’ve done that and reached that childhood dream and I’m ready to take those measured risks and get the most out of myself rather than being really safe. When you’re being safe, sure you may get to where you want to be but you’re never going to reach your full potential.”

Wellings produced her best major championship performance at the 2015 World Championships in Beijing. It is that result that has given her renewed belief.

“World Champs was amazing to make the final, coming 10th and running faster than I have in so many years, is really exciting. I do feel like my best is yet to come.

“I haven’t really had a chance to sit down with my coach (Nic Bideau) and discuss what I’m capable of but I know that our expectations are going to be really high for Rio. I definitely think I can run under 31 minutes and if the race is run like it was at the world championships this year, then if you are in sub 31 minute shape then you’re a medal chance.”

A key secret to her success is putting a horror run of injuries and illness behind her.

“I haven’t had an injury now in three years since having my little girl and so I think being a bit stronger, a bit smarter and having the experience, is the key.”

McNeill, a training partner of Wellings, also secured nomination and ultimately selection from the Australian Olympic Committee by winning the Zatopek selection race last month after posting a qualifying time earlier in 2015.

“Absolutely ecstatic to have my selection confirmed. Although I had satisfied the requirements for automatic nomination, it's a good feeling to get the phone call, and reflect on what lies ahead - certainly a challenging journey ahead, which I'm really looking forward to tackling,” McNeill said.

The 30-year-old from Melbourne had an injury impacted preparation for London and was run out in the heat of the 5,000m. He is confident under the ‘meticulous planning’ off coach Nic Bideau that things will be different at his second Games.

“My aim for Rio is to have the race of my life on the big day. That would mean being in personal best shape, and hopefully in contention for a top 10 finish. While it was an achievement just to make the team for London, my expectations are a little loftier now, and hopefully, rightly so, after coming off probably my best year since before London.”

In 2015, McNeill had a breakthrough personal best for the 10,000m (27:45.01) and fulfilled the nomination criteria for Rio eight months from the Games.
“With time on my side after ensuring an early qualifier, I'll focus on qualifying in the 5000m as well. The training for both events are physically similar, so it will be a nice mental stepping stone to being ready for Rio, to focus on the 5k in the meantime.”

Wellings will also focus on securing selection in the 5,000m over the Australian summer.

"It is fantastic to have Eloise and David back on the Olympic Team and the first of the track athletes selected,” Chef de Mission Kitty Chiller said. “These athletes are doing everything possible for a life best performance in Rio and we know they will make their supporters and all Australians proud.”

Athletics is expected to be the largest section of the 2016 Australian Olympic Team. Also selected today were three walkers – Chris Erickson, Brendon Reading and Jared Tallent. >>>> See more on that story here.

The next selections for the Athletics Section will follow the 20km walk trials in February. There will be some selections following the track and field selection trials in April, marathon selections will be confirmed in May, and final track and field athletes announced in July when the entire 2016 Australian Olympic Team is finalised.


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