Athletics team ready for medal haul
26 June 2012
The Australian Athletics Section at the London Olympic Games is poised to bring home the most medals in decades. On the track, in the field and on the road there are Australian medal hopes and many athletes capable of making finals in the sport that has the most competitors on the Olympic program.
World champion hurdler Sally Pearson will drive the charge on the track. In the field, 2011 world long jump No.1 Mitchell Watt is the favourite and defending pole vault champion Steve Hooker can’t be written off. On the road dual Olympic medallist Jared Tallent is focussed on gold.
Australia collected four track and field medals at the Beijing Olympics through Tallent, Pearson and Hooker. It was the most since a six medal haul from Mexico City in 1968 which Athletics Australia aims to match in 2012.
“The target is still six medals, as our President put forward four years ago, and we're looking good to make that as it stands,” Head Coach Eric Hollingsworth said on the eve of the selection announcement.
“Obviously the favourites are Sally (Pearson) in the hurdles, Mitchell (Watt) in the long jump and Jared (Tallent) in both the walks.
“The next group who we're looking at to come good are the Hookers (Steve), (Luke) Adams, (Nathan) Deakes and the throwers in (Benn) Harradine, (Kim) Mickle, (Jarrod) Bannister and (Dani) Samuels.”
And the Team has athletes on the rise capable of lifting under the Olympic spotlight.
“As for the surprise packet, that's probably Henry Frayne. Based on his performances this year both domestically and in Istanbul at the world indoor champs you're probably looking at that surprise coming in the long jump as opposed to the triple jump.
“I also think Julian Wruck (discus) could really put himself on the map at the Olympics. He's been flying under the radar over in the college set up in the States but we all saw when he came to Melbourne for the Olympic Trials what he was capable of, beating Harradine along the way, so if he can repeat that sort of performance and rise to the occasion then who knows what he'll do.”
Pearson has the two fastest times in the world this year and her time of 12.28 to win in Daegu puts pressure on her opposition and the long standing world record of 12.21.
"I'll be as ready as I can be when I get to London and to be honest I am a little excited about being the athlete that others are chasing heading into the Games," Pearson said.
"Beijing was unbelievable, coming away with a silver medal was such a great result, but I will be doing everything in my power to bring home a gold this time around. I got a taste for it at the world champs last year, and while you can't guarantee anything in sport, I will be giving 110 per cent to make sure that the result I want for me and my country is delivered."
Fellow Queenslander Watt was eighth in the long jump at the Beijing Olympic Trials and was more focussed on his law degree before his coach convinced him to dream big. The 24-year-old heads to London as the man to beat after 2011 world champion Dwight Phillips was ruled out of the Games with injury.
"Gary Bourne convinced me to come back and I am so excited about competing at the Olympics. I want to turn my world championship silver into an Olympic gold and if all goes well I know that I am capable of that."
Watt is back from injury and posted his best opening season jump on the Gold Coast in May.
"I'm in really good shape, my body is holding up well and the plan for 2012 is to head to London as fit as I can be rather than world champs last year where my body was starting to struggle. I had a pretty good return to international competition with a win in New York, my run up was pretty messy but that's what my coach and I will now work on leading into the Games."
At The Mall in central London, Olympic and world championship medallist Jared Tallent will lead a full squad of walkers around the 2 kilometre circuit that also includes 2004 Olympic bronze medallist and former world champion Nathan Deakes, and Luke Adams who was fifth at the 2011 World Championships.
“Gold means everything to me this year,” Tallent said. “I have been a medallist 5 times at world majors and they have all been minor medals. Hopefully my sixth medal is an Olympic gold medal!”
“It's definitely realistic, last year I was in a perfect position to win the world title and I didn't take that opportunity. I won't make the same mistake this year. My preparation has been perfect so far. This year I have been training harder than ever before. I am enjoying the training and my confidence is building each day I get closer to the Games.”
From the 43 (25 men and 18 women) athletes officially selected by the Australian Olympic Committee today, 24 will make their Olympic debut. There is also plenty of experience with Hooker, Adams and Deakes competing at their third Olympics. Craig Mottram, 31, and marathon runner Benita Willis, 33, will equal the record for athletics and compete at their fourth Games.
“Longevity comes with being passionate about what you do,” said Mottram, who won bronze in the 2005 World Championships.
“I love running. To try and improve is always a motivating factor for me.
“The Olympics is already up there as one of my career highlights. Making a fourth Team is a great achievement and I would like to perform better than I have in the past.”
Hollingsworth will look to the experienced athletes to guide his young chargers.
“It's great that so many of our guys are making their Olympic debuts, and we'll be counting on the seasoned athletes in the team such as Youcef (Abdi), Craig (Mottram), Benita (Willis) and Steve (Hooker) to share their experiences and pass on advice on how to handle the Olympic experience.
More athletes to come
Once Australia’s place in the top-16 qualifiers for the relay events is confirmed by the international federation the athletes listed below will be selected by the AOC to the 2012 Australian Olympic Team meaning the Team will swell substantially.
The men’s 4x400m relay team are ranked high enough for their place to almost be assured. The depth and talent in this team is fantastic and Australia has great recent history in this event.
“With Steffensen, who was part of the 2004 Olympic silver medallists and 2009 world championship bronze medallists, coming back from injury and hopefully (Steve) Solomon having a good world juniors we'll have a strong 4x400m,” Hollingsworth confirmed.
It is also hoped more individual athletes will achieve the Athletics Australia required nomination standard by 2pm AEST on 7 July and will then be selected to the Team. The athletes who are eligible up until this deadline are also listed below, subject to the outcome of any appeals lodged.
Pre-Games the Australian Athletics Section will be based at Tonbridge School in Kent and the first group of athletes will descend upon the pre-Olympic camp on July 15, the day after the London Diamond League, with all but the race walkers expected in by the official media day on 23 July. It is expected most athletes will take part in the Opening Ceremony before the first half of the team, including Pearson and Watt, head to the Olympic Village on 30 July.
The following Relay athletes have been nominated to the AOC subject to them being allocated a quota place by the IAAF. The IAAF Qualifying Period ends 2 July 2012 with the IAAF to confirm the allocation of quota places on 3 July 2012.
Men’s 4x100m Relay **
Anthony Alozie, Tim Leathart, Andrew McCabe, Isaac Ntiamoah, Joshua Ross
Men’s 4x400m Relay **
Joel Milburn, Ben Offereins, Steven Solomon, John Steffensen
Women’s 4x100m Relay
Melissa Breen, Hayley Butler, Jessica Knox, Sally Pearson, Charlotte van Veenendaal
The following athletes have been nominated to the AOC on the condition of recording an Athletics Australia standard by 2pm Saturday 7 July (AEST) and returned all necessary documentation. If more than one athlete achieves the AA Nomination Standard than quota places available, the athlete that has recorded the best performance on the IAAF Top List, adjusted to include any relevant performances in the period 11 June 2012 to 7 July 2012, will be selected.
Alex Beck (400m), Scott Crowe (Long Jump), Robert Crowther (Long Jump), Matt Davies (100m/200m), Anthony Di Quinzio (Long Jump/Triple Jump), Greg Eyears (110m Hurdles), Liam Gander (100m), Jake Hammond (100m), Fabrice Lapierre (Long Jump), Jackson Mallory (400m), Matthew Outzen (Javelin Throw), Lachlan Renshaw (800m), Aaron Rouge-Serret (100m/200m), Alexander Rowe (400m), Sean Wroe (400m)
Crystal Attenborough (100m), Monica Brennan (100m/200m), Lisa Corrigan (1500m), Jody Henry (400m), Tamsyn Manou (400m/800m), Victoria Mitchell (3000m Steeplechase), Larissa Pasternatsky (100m), Kerrie Perkins (Long Jump), Caitlin Pincott (400m), Anneliese Rubie (400m), Caitlin Sargent (400m), Theodora Spathis (Heptathlon), Brooke Stratton (Long Jump), Lara Tamsett (10,000m), Laura Whaler (100m), Ashleigh Whittaker (100m)
** Subject to the outcome of an ongoing appeal.