Home A Column By Len Johnson

A Column By Len Johnson

Len Johnson wrote for The Melbourne Age as an athletics writer for over 20 years, covering five Olympics, 10 world championships and five Commonwealth Games.

He has been the long-time lead columnist on RT and is one of the world’s most respected athletic writers.

He is also a former national class distance runner (2.19.32 marathon) and trained with Chris Wardlaw and Robert de Castella among other running legends. He is the author of The Landy Era.

Lasse Viren, the fabulous Finn who won consecutive Olympic track 5000/10,000 doubles  – once suggested that elastic tapes must be used to measure the last three or four miles of the marathon.
Not a single member of the Athletics Australia selection panel, however, will be breathing a sigh of relief. There is still plenty of work to be done, particularly in the middle-distance events were there are way more contenders for places in Paris than there are places in Paris.
Who kept Lisa Weightman out of the Olympic marathon team?
When it comes to distance running, Oslo’s Bislett Stadium seems to be the gift that keeps on giving for Australians, Georgia Griffith the latest beneficiary with a national record in the 3000 metres on Thursday (30 May).
When Rose Davies shaved just over two seconds off Jess Hull’s Australian record for 5000 metres in running 14:41.65 in Tokyo last weekend (19 May), I was more surprised than I should have been.
In line with that is the notion that each National Olympic Committee has the right to be represented at each Olympic Games. Thus, the universality clauses. As expressed in the World Athletics explainer to the qualification system for Paris: “An NOC with no male or female qualified athlete or relay team will be allowed to enter their best ranked male athlete or best ranked female athlete”  . . . so far, so not so bad. But then, “in either the 100 metres, 800 metres or marathon.”
The actual running of the relays is exciting enough. Getting the baton around in the 4x100 is always a delicate balance between risk and reward. Push the envelope on the changes at the risk of dropping the baton or overrunning the zone. Then there’s the physical side of the 4x4 as after the first three bends it’s a high-speed battle for the best racing line in what essentially becomes a middle-distance sprint.
The selection window for the Olympic marathons closes this weekend and the Australian selectors can begin weighing the relative merits of the six women and four men from whom they can name three of each to run the Paris 26-miler.
Running in the opening Diamond League meeting of Olympic year in Xiamen somebody named Gudaf Tsegay won in 3:50.30, suggesting the reigning 10,000 metres world champion and 5000 world record holder may also be capable of giving dual Olympic champion Faith Kipyegon – and anyone else who emerges in the interim - a run for her money in Paris.
The men’s 1500 metres was one of the two most anticipated races at the just-concluded national championships in Adelaide (the other, the women’s 800).