It certainly has been a momentous weekend of international performances by our athletes at three competitions in Monaco, London and Heusden in Belgium. Competing at the very highest level in our sport outside of championships, 13 Aussie performed with distinction at two Diamond Leagues – achieving two Australian records and a string of world class performances. It started in Monaco and spread like fever across the English channel.
The weekend had kicked off on a high in Monaco on Friday night when 20-year-old Joseph Deng broke the near 50-year-old national 800m record.
At the unique two-day London Olympic Games legacy meet, the Anniversary Games, 11 Aussies were taking advantage of the last major competition ahead of a pause in competition due to the upcoming European Championships
It was on the cards off the back of her best season ever, that Linden Hall would take down the national mile record to add to her 1500m mark from late May. And she did that in spades running 4:21.40 to shave 1.26 from the old mark.
“So happy to knock off the record today. Once we heard it was going to be a mile in London we decided to target it in the hope of breaking the record,” Hall said who seemed to ride the crest of a wave of Aussie performances over the three days.
“I couldn’t help but be inspired by Jo Deng on Friday and all the other Aussies who’ve had great runs in Monaco, Heusden and here in London.”
Last year, in this race, she ran 4:23.96, 1.3 seconds outside Lisa Corrigan’s 11-year-old record of 4:22.66. The record was considered equal to about 4:03.3 for 1500m, a time Hall has bettered twice this year. From the gun, Hall settled mid-field as the athletes were strung out fairly quickly. Hall ran splits of 64.9, 65.4, 66.0, steaming home in 65.1. She passed 1500m at 4:04.2, requiring some hard work to make up time over the last 100m, timed at 17.2 to claim the record.
The London Stadium, used for the 2012 Olympic Games and 2017 World Championships is a happy hunting ground for Aussies. For Brooke Stratton her placing on Saturday was her third consecutive competitive result at the venue. In July 2017 she placed third in the Diamond League meet, a month later she placed sixth at the world championships – the best ever place by an Australian in this event. On Saturday she was third again in the Diamond League with her fourth-round leap of 6.76m and a consistent series of four jumps over 6.60m.
“I’m pretty happy but I would have liked to jump a bit further but with 6.76m I cannot complain at all,” said Stratton. “Hopefully I’ll have enough points for the Diamond League finals.” She will have to wait until after the Birmingham Diamond League on 18 August, when the circuit resumes following the European Championships. Stratton is also scheduled to complete in the Continental Cup (in Ostrava) in early September. “I’m heading back to Australia tomorrow and I will have to prepare for those. It’s cold in Melbourne at the moment so I’ll need to escape somewhere hotter and be consistent in my training.”
Pole vaulter Kurtis Marschall was uncharacteristically shaky in the early rounds. He required two attempts at 5.46m and 5.61m, and three at 5.71m. But then attempting an equal PB of 5.80m, he was over on his second vault, securing fourth place, one ahead of former world champion, Shawnacy Barker (CAN). Marschall missed his three attempts at 5.86m. It maintained his strong Diamond League record of 4th, 6th, 3rd 8th and 4th this summer.
In the men’s long jump Commonwealth Games silver medallist, Henry Frayne continued his best and most consistent season of his career. He placed fourth with just two valid jumps of 8.04m and 8.24m – his eighth consecutive competition over eight metres, the fourth longest leap of his career and longest outside of Australia. He comfortably qualified for the Diamond League final which will be held in five weeks.
In a very tactical non-Diamond League men’s 1500m, the only athlete who could beat Australian record holder Ryan Gregson was Olympic champion America’s Matt Centrowitz. From the gun, limited interest was shown in the pacemaker who hit the requested 1:54 at 800m. At this stage, Gregson was in good position, about third in the pack. On the third lap as the paced quickened Gregson went with the surges and looked able to cover all the moves. Youssouf Hiss Backir who had earlier gone with the pacemaker was being reeled in and very rapidly over the last 100m. Gregson, beautifully positioned, was looking strong as he powered home and looked like the winner, but Centrowitz had other ideas and held Gregson off as they clocked 3:35.22 to 3:35.35. Jody Williamsz was 11th in 3:36.78. It was Gregson 45th appearance at a Diamond League (some DL races and others not), over the last 10 years since 2009.
Dual Commonwealth Games medallist, Kelsey Barber, turned around her indifferent recent European form, with two quality throws at the tail end of her series. With a best of 61.58m, by round four, Barber closed with 63.90m then 64.11m to place third. It was her first Diamond League podium finish of the year. Unfortunately, on points she missed qualification for the Diamond League final on countback.
In the women’s 800m Brittany McGowan continued her best season yet in the event. Drawn in lane one, she sat at the back of the pack for most of the race. The leaders opted not to follow the pacemaker who hit the bell in the required 57.8, but an unhelpful 10 metres ahead of the field. With 100m remaining McGowan started to move and over the last 40 metres was full of running mowing down a few athletes and crossing the line in fifth – in her second fastest ever time of 2:00.60.
Commonwealth Games representatives Stewart McSweyn and Patrick Tiernan were caught is an unusually slow 5000m race. When the kick down started at the bell, McSweyn was towards the rear of the strung out pack, but ran on solidly to placed 12th in 13:20.21, with Tiernan 16th in 13:24.58. McSweyn has earned sufficient points to qualify for the final in late August.
National steeplechase record holder, Gen LaCaze continued her return to form with 10th in the 3000m in 8:50.09 – just 0.07 second slower than her new personal best set a week ago in Cork.
Heusden Night of Athletics EAA
Meanwhile over in Belgium on Saturday night, the European Athletics Association Night of Athletics meet was held in Heusden and provided some movement on the Australian all-time lists of its own. Famed for its distance races, two Aussies benefited from this tradition. In the men’s 5000m Brett Robinson signalled he was fully recovered from his injury-affected 2017 season, with a three-second personal best time of 13:15.91 – elevating him to number seven in Australian history.
In the women’s 5000m Madeline Hills was equally impressive, just two seconds outside her personal best with a time of 15:06.19, a time only three other Aussies have bettered.
There were also wins for Nina Kennedy pole vault 4.45 and Nicola McDermott high jump 1.88, while also competing were Sam McEntee 1500m (3:38.89) and Georgia Griffith 1500m (4:11.45).
David Tarbotton for Athletics Australia