Australia’s middle distance stars have shone brightly on the international circuit overnight, with Jenny Blundell (NSW), Ryan Gregson (Vic) and Luke Mathews (Vic) all qualifying for the Olympic Games in the 1500m.

Competing at the IAAF World Challenge in Beijing (CHN), Blundell was the first to stake her claim for Rio 2016 selection after she clocked 4:04.62 to place 4th at the Bird’s Nest. The 22-year-old sat on the shoulder of the pacemaker from the outset, digging deep to challenge for a top-three finish on the home straight before crossing in a personal best time that moves her to fifth on the Australian All-Time List.

“It still hasn’t sunk in. I knew I had it in me to run that fast, I just had to run hard from the start. It didn’t surprise me, but it’s exciting,” Blundell said.

“I didn’t hear any times out there, there was no clock. I knew we were going through 800m in 2:11, and the pace carried us through to the bell. The Norwegian runner told me before the race that if we asked for that pace, then we’d get it, so I was confident of where we were at.”

Blundell’s time sees her join Linden Hall (Vic) and Zoe Buckman (Vic) on the list of qualified athletes for the very competitive women’s 1500m, with Melissa Duncan (Vic) already Rio 2016 selected and the national champion Heidi See (NSW) on the hunt for an Olympic standard. Only three athletes can represent Australia at the Olympic Games.

“It’s an Olympic year, you’ve just got to run as fast as you can. 4:04 is quick, but it might not be fast enough,” Blundell added.

Equally impressive in Nijmegen (NED) were Gregson and Mathews.

Gregson’s start in the men’s 1500m was unexpected, with the national record holder switching from the 800m on the advice of his coach Nic Bideau to capitalise on the good conditions presented. As the Australian champion, the performance of 3:35.78 to win ensures that the 26-year-old will be the first of the nominees for the event at the Olympic Games.

“The conditions were really good so we thought it would be a good chance to run fast. Nic told me the morning of the event that I should switch events and it paid off,” Gregson said.

“It’s a nice feeling to be finally qualified alongside so many of my Melbourne Track Club teammates, but now it’s all about improving and getting to that final in Rio.”

Second to Gregson was the 20-year-old Mathews, who has already been selected to compete at the Olympic Games in the men’s 800m. Stopping the clock at 3:35.99, Mathews’ result improves on the career best he ran at the Briggs Athletics Classic earlier this year.

“Luke pushes me every day in training and together we drag each other along in races. We’re great for each other and I couldn’t have done this without him. It’s a great performance for us both,” Gregson added.

In other results from the IAAF World Challenge in Beijing (CHN):
– Kathryn Mitchell (Vic) reigned supreme in the women’s javelin with a best mark of 64.37m. She will now travel to Rabat (MAR) for Round 3 of the IAAF Diamond League.
– Competing in the men’s high jump, Nik Bojic (Qld) and Brandon Starc (NSW) both cleared 2.20m to place 6th and 8th respectively.

In other results from the Nijmegen Global Athletics event:
– Selma Kajan (NSW) was the best placed Australian in the women’s 800m, crossing in a time of 2:04.65 for second. Genevieve LaCaze (Vic, 2:04.77) placed third, and Buckman (2:06.82) 7th.
– Competing alongside Gregson and Mathews, Brett Robinson (Vic) ran 3:40.73 for 8th in the men’s 1500m.