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AOC Feature:Solomon set for huge 2012

27 April 2012

The Australian Athletics Team will go to the London Olympic Games with more medal chances than any Games in recent history. Technical events such as walks, hurdles and field events are where National High Performance Manager Eric Hollingsworth expects his predicted six medals will come from.

There has been some criticism that world champion hurdler Sally Pearson is the only athlete to achieve the A qualifying standard for a sprint event, but it is definitely not all doom and gloom.
Melissa Breen is only a fingernail away from the 11.29 100m A standard. In the men’s 400m both John Steffensen and Steven Solomon are capable of the automatic time (45.30), which all bodes well for the 4x400m relay prospects.

The big personality Steffensen was part of the ‘silver bullets’ that medalled at the Athens Olympics, won the 2006 Commonwealth Games, placed sixth in Beijing and won bronze at the 2009 World Championships.

In contrast the quietly spoken Solomon, who is 19 next month, was still in primary school in 2004 and made his international debut rubbing shoulders with the superstars of the sport at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu. The relay disappointingly missed the final but a lot was learnt ahead of 2012.

Solomon’s dramatic improvement over the past two years and raw talent is extremely exciting for athletics fans, particularly in an Olympic and World Junior Championships year. The lanky teenager defended his open 400m national title a few weeks ago in superb fashion to run away from quality opposition and set a personal best time of 45.54 seconds.  

“It was extremely promising for Fira (coach) and myself,” Solomon explained.

“It showed I am capable and ready to step up and run that A-qualifier for London when I am not in a heavy training phase. The end of last year was quite rushed with my HSC and a hamstring injury so we chose after the Olympic Trials to work hard at getting a base that will help me later in the year.”

Solomon has a big list of goals to achieve in 2012 that include qualifying for the Olympics, winning a medal at the World Juniors in Barcelona and then 3 weeks later competing in the London Olympics in the 400m and 4x400m relay. He will then move to Stanford University to start studying pre-medicine (undergraduate) on a full scholarship, ensuring that 2012 is set to be a busy year for the hot prospect.

And it all starts this weekend at the famous Penn Relays in Philadelphia where the top teams from around the world, including the American and Jamaican champions, will compete.

The Australian relay team need to produce a time that moves them comfortably inside the top-16 rankings in the world for London Olympics qualification. Ben Offereins, Alex Beck, Kevin Moore and Matt Lynch travelled with Solomon to the States this week. John Steffensen and Sean Wroe are unavailable with injury but Solomon is still confident the guys can do the job.

“The guys are in good form. Beck ran a big PB at Nationals, Kevin Moore is close to PB shape, Ben (Offerins) always races well and I have done some more speed work since Nationals to ensure I run the fastest leg I can.”

Solomon and his team need a good run to take the pressure off Olympic qualification.

”I would feel more comfortable if we ran a 3:02 to qualify us for the Olympics. A 3:03 would be okay but not as comfortable.”

Solomon has only been training seriously for two years with respected coach Fira Dvoskina. Before that he was ‘a soccer player who ran at school’.

“He is a very talented and special boy,” 77-year-old Ukrainian born Dvoskina said. “Two years ago he was running 48 seconds now 45.5. Step by step we are getting there. He has plenty of improvement to come and 2012 is his time.

“I am a superstitious woman and anything can happen in sport but I think he is capable of winning a medal at World Juniors and getting an individual run at the London Olympics.”  

Solomon credits his coach for his continuous improvement.

“Fira knew exactly what to do with me. She had moulded me to perfection in the way she nourished my introduction to track and field so I wasn’t going to be overrun or overtrained. Through patience and careful planning Fira taught me and my body how to run the race.”

Solomon will get stronger as his body continues to develop. His form and speed down the final straight is his big weapon and he is working on a faster first 200 metres to ensure his times keep getting faster.

The Penn Relays in front of 50,000 people and a compact stadium will be a great experience for Solomon and his young teammates. It will hopefully be the start of a sensational year for the exciting young talent.

Andrew Reid
AOC

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