Morgan Mitchell (Vic) and Luke Mathews (Vic) will be automatically nominated for Rio 2016 selection after victory in the women’s 400m and men’s 800m at the Australian Athletics Championships tonight.
Undefeated in the one-lap race so far in 2016, Mitchell started in the final tonight after impressive runs in both her heat and semi-final to ensure she was the fastest of the starters.
She was strong out of the blocks and challenged throughout the race by the 17-year-old Jessica Thornton (NSW, second, 52.33, PB), before putting her foot down to take line honours in yet another Olympic Games qualifying time of 51.84. The bronze medal was won by Anneliese Rubie (NSW, 52.90).
“That was just off my PB, I was hoping for quicker, I’m not going to lie, but it was great competition. To see Jess Thornton come out and get second in her first open nationals is something special,” Mitchell said.
“With 50m to go I knew I had to move my arms. I’m really happy with all the girls. It’s been a long and tough season and now it’s all over. It’s special because I surprised my Mum with a ticket to Rio, put a bit of pressure on myself, so I thought I have to win. I’m really happy.”
In the men’s final, the London 2012 Olympic finalist Steven Solomon (NSW) won his fourth Australian 400m crown in a time of 45.50, missing the qualifying mark by a mere 0.10 seconds.
Mathews’ road to the Australian crown was more dramatic after a fall in the opening lap saw the Olympic Game qualified Josh Ralph (NSW) tumble out of contention and cross eighth.
The pace was then taken up by Dylan Stenson (SA, 4th, 1:47.65) before the 20-year-old came around for the lead and never looked back to cross and win in 1:46.20. He shared the dais with Australian record holder Alex Rowe (Vic, second, 1:47.31) and Mason Cohen (NSW, third, 1:47.41).
“This is relief if anything. I knew that I could do it, but actually coming out here and doing it is a different things. I had to factor in so many variables, nerves, people falling and for it to all go perfect on the night is a build-up of the last twelve months to a big climax,” Mathews said.
“Now I have to get up for training on Monday. It will be like coming off Mount Everest and going down to like Atlantis, somewhere negative.
“It’s a real shame what happened to Josh Ralph. I thought he was the one, the money man. I thought he was going to throw the kitchen sink at me. It’s a battle out there, I managed to do that, but it’s upsetting because I know Josh has been in good form.”
Equally impressive in the women’s ambulant 100m was Isis Holt (Vic), who for a second time during the summer of athletics improved the world record for her T35 cerebral palsy class. Crossing the line in 13.57 the performance delivered her maiden open age gold medal at the Australian Athletics Championships.
Competition at the Sydney Olympic Park Athletics Centre tonight also featured the finals of the men’s and women’s 100m, with Alex Hartmann (Qld) and Melissa Breen (ACT) reigning supreme.
Hartmann is on the hunt for the sprint double at these championships, with his 10.35 (w: -0.1) tonight setting him up for the longer event tomorrow. Breen’s time of 11.53 (w: -0.3) ensures her sixth Australian 100m crown.
The silver medal in the men’s race was won by the IAAF World Under 20 Championships bound Jack Hale (Tas), delivering an Australian championship 100m medal to the Apple Isle for the first time since 1905.
In other highlights on day three of the Australian Athletics Championships:
– Stopping the clock in 4:19.47, Angela Ballard (NSW) took line honours in the women’s wheelchair 1500m, with Kurt Fearnley (NSW) taking victory in the men’s race in 3:22.37.
– Heidi See (NSW) delivered her second consecutive national crown in the women’s 1500m, crossing the line in 4:14.17, as Linden Hall (Vic, 4:14.41) and Jenny Blundell (NSW, 4:15.12) won silver and bronze respectively.
– Liz Parnov (WA) won the women’s pole vault final with a clearance of 4.30m, sharing the dais with silver medallist Nina Kennedy (WA, 4.10m) and bronze medal winner Vicky Parnov(WA, 4.10m).
The Australian Athletics Championships, which double as the Nomination Trial for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, continue tomorrow.
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