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Exciting athletics section shows record talent and depth

13 July 2016

ATHLETICS: An additional 18 track and field competitors, who have achieved the Olympic qualifying standard, have been added to the 2016 Australian Olympic Team by selectors today.

There is great depth with 11 events in Rio set to have the maximum of three competitors. For the first time since Sydney 2000 Australia will have a female runner in every track event. There were athletes who achieved the standard and missed selection.

The Athletics Section now sits at 61, following the previous selections. Atlanta 1996 was the largest away team for the sport with 62. The Atlanta Athletics Section comprised four relays where in 2016 there is just the women’s 4x400m relay squad, and with the new IAAF ‘roll-down’ qualification system the athletics section could grow by a few more in the coming days.

A number of athletes have progressed to this Olympic Team from the Youth Olympic Games, World Youth or World Junior Championships.

Jessica Thornton was the 400m champion at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games and now has been selected for the 4x400m relay for Rio 2016. She is the youngest athletics member of the Team at 18.

“I’ve dreamed of competing at the Olympic Games since I was five years old,” Thornton said.

“To be only 18 and to have achieved it is something that I will never forget. I was genuinely speechless when I was told I’d been selected, knowing that all my training and dedication to the sport has paid off just made it so special.”

Thornton will have the perfect hit-out for the Olympics at the World Under 20 Championships where she will race the 400m and 4x400m relay in Bydgoszcz, Poland, commencing next week.

Kurtis Marschall is a name not many knew at the start of last summer and now he is our first Olympic male teenage pole vaulter. He recently cleared the best height by a junior in the world for three years and looks set to continue Australia’s proud pole vaulting tradition.

“Australia has an amazing reputation in the pole vault with countless Olympians and world championships representative in the event,” Marschall said. “I’ve had the privilege of speaking to several national representatives in the event and to continue the tradition that they started is an absolute honour and incredible opportunity.

“This is an opportunity that I aim to make the most of. To have the chance to represent my country at an open international event like this at the age of 19 is ridiculous.”

The additional athletes are not all teenagers or rookies. Arguably Australia’s most talented all round distance runner Jeffrey Riseley gets a third chance at the Olympics Games. Ryan Gregson, Zoe Buckman and Melissa Breen are now selected for a second Games.

Gregson has been in terrific form this year and a 1500m finals berth would be the first for an Australian male for 40 years.

The depth in middle distance running for men and women is outstanding. Linden Hall is an example of an amazing talent on the rise. She has run huge personal bests for the 1500m in recent months and goes into Rio with the ninth fastest time in the world this year. Sadly, Melissa Duncan who was selected back in April has been forced to withdraw. World Championship finalist Buckman and Youth Olympian Jenny Blundell round out this strong event.

In the field Hamish Peacock, 25, gets his first throw at the Olympic Games to make his childhood dream come true.

“I have been throwing the javelin since I was eight and for as long as I can remember I have wanted to compete at the highest level, and the highest level is the Olympic Games,” Peacock said.

“I didn’t hit the qualifier in the domestic season, but the results I had were my best ever and I won the national crown for the first time. My international season has been amazing, having nailed the qualifier several times and having solid performances at the Diamond League. It’s been a great 2016 so far. The depth of talent in the javelin this year is deep, but I am definitely aiming for a top-eight finish in Rio.”

Athletics Australia Head Coach Craig Hilliard is excited by the size and talent of this group.

“Athletes and coaches across the country have stepped up this Olympic year, with the athletics section 61-strong,” Hilliard said.

“More athletes than ever before will compete in individual events at an Olympic Games since Sydney 2000, and that depth of talent is further highlighted by the 40 debutants we have competing at this Olympic Games.

“Competition at Rio 2016 will be hard fought, but I am confident that our team will do both themselves and their country proud, providing many highlights. I’m looking forward to our team coming together at our camp in Bradenton, Florida, later this month, before we arrive in the Olympic host city from 8 August.”

Six athletes have had an additional event added to their program. Madeline Hills (5000m), Genevieve LaCaze (5000m), Luke Mathews (1500m) and for the 4x400m relay, Morgan Mitchell, Anneliese Rubie and Lauren Wells.

Athletics Captain and defending Olympic Champion Jared Tallent was already selected for the two walk (20km, 50km) events. Injury has ended the Rio campaign for defending 100m hurdles champion Sally Pearson and 1500m runner Melissa Duncan.

The Athletics Section is the largest of the 2016 Australian Olympic Team, followed by Swimming with 39. 

AOC and AA

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