Australian record holder Alex Rowe (Vic) will launch his 2016 campaign at the Adelaide Track Classic on Saturday 20 February.

Competing in the men’s 800m, Rowe’s start marks his first competitive hit-out since July 2015 and provides him with a great opportunity to join Jeff Riseley (Vic) and Josh Ralph (NSW) on the qualified list for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

“It’s a cliché to say, but I have been very happy with my preparation these past couple of months and I am ready to get back out there. I wanted to race earlier, to be honest, but my coach and I agreed that it was better to get a little more work done so that my preparation was right to challenge for the qualifying time when I began competing,” Rowe said.

“I am pretty confident that I can run the time on the weekend. I did a time trial last weekend that indicated I am heading in the right direction and conditions are shaping up to be good, which always helps.”

Rowe, who is coached by Justin Rinaldi, has deferred his medical studies to focus on athletics after balancing both pursuits impacted on his results last year and led to his withdrawal from the IAAF World Championships.

Determined to return to the form that saw him clock 1:44.40 to become equal fastest ever, Rowe is confident that his decision to focus on Olympic Games success in the short term will pay dividends.

“Last year was difficult. The work that I had to do at university was incredibly rewarding, but challenging, and it took away any energy that I had to deliver when I was on the track. I wasn’t training at a level that I believe I should be to run at that elite level. To be the best you have to be able to commit, you have to tick all the boxes, and I didn’t have the schedule to allow for that in 2015,” Rowe added.

“I did have a great year academically, and I learned a lot about how busy life can be. This year I didn’t want to risk my Olympic preparation so I’ve set university aside for now to be the best athlete I can be in Rio.

“I want to find the times that I did in 2014. Training suggests that I can and I know in myself that I am capable. My commitment this year is athletics and I’m going to give it my all.”

Local favourite Dylan Stenson (SA) and Rowe’s training partner Peter Bol (WA) will lead the challenge for line honours, with Stenson competing after an impressive outing at the South Australia Athletics Championships this past weekend. Stopping the clock in 1:47.98, Stenson’s result is within striking distance of the 44-year-old state record of Chris Fisher (1:47.0h).

In the women’s race, national champion Brittany McGowan (Qld) will face off with KellyHetherington (Vic) and Selma Kajan (NSW), while the longer 1500m features formidable steeplechaser Madeline Hills (nee Heiner, SA).

Rowe’s fellow national record holder Alana Boyd (Qld) headlines field action, with the pole vaulter to take to the runway for the first time since soaring 4.77m on the Sunshine Coast (Qld) last month to improve upon her own Australian best mark of 4.76m.

Boyd is now qualified for both the IAAF World Indoor Championships and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, with competition this weekend to be followed by starts at the IAAF Melbourne World Challenge and the Australian Athletics Championships.

Nina Kennedy (WA), who cleared a very impressive 4.59m as a 17-year-old at the Perth Track Classic last year, and her training partners Liz Parnov (WA), Vicky Parnov (WA) and Emma Philippe (WA) are also entered.

Julian Wruck (Qld) will also open his season at the Adelaide Track Classic, competing in the men’s discus throw. Wruck made the final of the event at the Beijing 2015 IAAF World Championships last year and has an impressive personal best of 68.16m, more than three metres beyond the Olympic Games standard.

For more information on the Adelaide Track Classic, including the event timetable and entry lists, please click here.

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The Adelaide instalment of the Australian Athletics Tour will be held in conjunction with the Canberra Track Classic at the Australian Institute of Sport. This event will welcome Australia’s best sprinters and jumpers, with further details available here.