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Relay men win race to London

4 July 2012

The Australian athletics team has been boosted by the addition of two men’s relay teams for London 2012. Nine athletes have been added to the athletics team to take the section size to 52 – the largest on the Australian Olympic Team.

When the IAAF qualifying window closed on 2 July, the two men’s relay teams fell inside the crucial top 16 Olympic cut-off. Their average top two times put the men’s 4 x 400m team in 13th place and the 4 x 100m in 15th. The women’s 4 x 100m team narrowly missed out on an Olympic berth finishing 18th.

“It’s really nice to finally have that solidified,” said 400m runner Steven Solomon from the Junior World Championships in Barcelona.

“The team has been working really hard. With two 3:01 performances we were always confident, but now it is official and we can really look towards London and hopefully build on what could potentially be a big result for us.”

Nineteen-year-old Solomon is joined by experienced campaigners Joel Milburn, Ben Offereins and John Steffensen in what shapes up as a medal chance for Australia.

In 2004 Steffensen was part of the Australian quartet that stunned to win Olympic silver. It was only the second medal Australia had ever won in Olympic athletics relay events and the last men’s track medal the Australian men have won. The team also won bronze at the 2009 World Championships.

“The first step is we’ve got to try and make that final in London,” Solomon said.

“Everyone in the team is capable of producing an outstanding run and four outstanding runs will equal a medal with the depth and talent we have in our team. Hopefully we can pull it all together and come out of London with something shiny around our necks.”

The well-credentialed team includes Beijing Olympic 400m semi-finalist Milburn, who overcame an injury-ravaged few years to seal selection. Offereins clocked the third fastest Australian time this year (45.96) behind Solomon and Steffensen, and was part of the bronze medal team in 2009.

Five men have also been named for the 4 x 100m relay including 31-year-old Joshua Ross and 21-year-old Andrew McCabe. Anthony Alozie, Tim Leathart and Isaac Ntiamoah wrap up the contingent that will fly the Australian flag in the blue riband relay event.

“It is such a big relief to be secured in the top 16 teams,” 22-year-old Leathart said.

“It’s only really just hit me I guess, it’s slowly sinking in.”

At the start of the year the Sydneysider was battling with injury. He was tempted to sit out the Australian domestic season, effectively hanging up the spikes on a London 2012 campaign. But an eleventh hour revelation changed his tune when he figured this is an Olympic year, and he had nothing to lose.

Townsville’s McCabe is another bolter in the team with less than two years of serious training under his belt.

As for Athens 2004 Olympic relay finalist Ross, he returned to track and field in 2011 after a two-year layoff. His time of 10.16 in Kawasaki in May could have secured him an individual 100m berth had it not been for an illegal 2.9m tailwind.

This combination looms as an exciting prospect for Australian track and field fans, and Leathart claims the team we send out for one of the biggest races on the Olympic program will be fully prepared.

“We are moving in the right direction- our flat speed is very good, but our changes need to be perfect because we can make up so much time getting these perfect.

“We all get along like a house on fire. We’re becoming good friends and we are all extremely focused on how to improve.”

The Australian athletics section may still grow with athletes given until July 8 to qualify for the Games.

This weekend’s Diamond League round in Paris will host Australia’s Lachlan Renshaw hunting an 800m qualifier. Long jump Commonwealth Champion Fabrice Lapierre and triple Olympian Tamsyn Manou are among the athletes still trying to qualify for London 2012.

View all athletics profiles here >>>

Taya Conomos
AOC

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