Australia’s 60-strong athletics section has arrived at the Athletes Village in Rio and, with competition now only days away, anticipation among the green and gold is fast approaching fever pitch.
Descending on Rio 2016 from the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, over the past few days, the team has settled in to Building 23, with the 39 debutantes relishing the opportunity to mix with some of Australia’s and the world’s most recognisable sporting faces.
“It was a long journey but this is really exciting,” javelin thrower Kelsey-Lee Roberts (ACT) said upon arriving at the Athletes' Village today.
“The camp was fantastic this year.
“I’ve had a couple of back-to-back sessions now that keep building my confidence, so I am feeling really confident and quite settled.
“If I can take that on to the runway everything will happen for me.
“Everyone seems really confident, really excited, really enthusiastic and I think that’s built amongst the group and the vibe is great.”
Sprinter Alex Hartmann (Qld) said the team was thrilled to be able to now soak up the Olympics atmosphere first-hand.
“Just a little bit,” Hartmann said with a smile when asked if he was excited to arrive in Rio.
“I can’t wait to show the world what I’ve got.
“I want to make the semi-final at least.
“The final would be amazing, but it’s more an experience thing this time around and then when Tokyo comes around I will be aiming to medal there.
Competition remains the focus, with Day 1 of athletics on Friday, 12 August, to feature 14 athletes competing across two locations and three sessions.
The flag will be flown in the medal event of competition by Sydney-based mother-of-one Eloise Wellings (NSW), starting in the final of the women’s 10,000m.
She was the best-placed female for Australia on the track at last year’s IAAF World Championships and, after a block of altitude training alongside her training squad in Mount Laguna, California, she is ready to race against the world.
Wellings is joined on entry lists for Day 1 at the Maracana Stadium by Luke Mathews (Vic), Peter Bol (Vic) and Jeff Riseley (Vic) in the men’s 800m heats, Jenny Blundell (NSW), Linden Hall (Vic) and Zoe Buckman (Vic) in the women’s 1500m heats, Melissa Breen (ACT) in the first round of the women’s 100m, Matthew Denny (Qld) and Benn Harradine (Qld) in the qualification round of the men’s discus throw and Fabrice Lapierre (NSW) and Henry Frayne (Qld) in the qualification round of the men’s long jump.
Meanwhile at Pontal, 22-year-old Dane Bird-Smith (Qld) will look to elevate himself to a podium finish after placing fourth in the men’s 20km walk at the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships in Rome, Italy, earlier this year. He will be joined on entry lists by Rhydian Cowley (Vic), with both competing at their first Olympic Games.
Day 2 of competition at the athletics stadium will feature the men’s long jump (Henry Frayne, Fabrice Lapierre) and men’s discus (Ben Harradine, Matthew Denny) finals, as well as the second round of the men’s 800m, before Morgan Mitchell (Vic) and Anneliese Rubie (NSW) run the 400m with Kurtis Marschall (SA) jumping in the pole vault.
Genevieve LaCaze (Vic), Madeline Hills (NSW) and Victoria Mitchell (NSW) are scheduled to start in the women’s 3000m steeplechase on the same day, before David McNeill (Vic) and Ben St Lawrence (NSW) don their race singlets for the men’s 10,000m final alongside one of the faces of London 2012, Briton Mo Farah.
Rounding out the first few days of action is the women’s marathon, with Lisa Weightman (Vic), Jess Trengove (SA) and Milly Clark (NSW) to take to the start line for the 42.195km event.
Both Weightman and Trengove battled it out four years ago, with Weightman placing 17th and Trengove 39th on the Mall.