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National News

Opportunity Looms Large in Stockholm

Saturday, 9 June 2018 | Pat Birgan

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Photo credit: @josephdeng01

Stockholm Olympic Stadium is a historically kind venue for Australians, home to current and former national records from Mitchell Watt (Long Jump), Simon Doyle & Sarah Jamieson (1500m), Grant Cremer & Herb Elliot (1000m) and Ron Clarke (5000m).

Henry Frayne (Long Jump), Joseph Deng & Peter Bol (800m), Linden Hall & Jordan Williamsz (1500m) will all have an opportunity to make their mark in the record books and Australian all-time lists this weekend.

Frayne will continue to build on a season that sees him happy and healthy, working in unison with coach Gary Bourne to listen to his body and build toward the Diamond League finals series. Frayne will be surrounded by familiar company on the runway, as the Olympic, World Indoor, World Outdoor and Commonwealth champions line up, as a now familiar grouping of Jeff Henderson (USA), Juan Miguel Echevarria (CUB) and Luvo Manyonga (RSA) come together to push toward the 8.70m mark. 

Frayne has jumped 8.15m twice this International campaign and Is having his best season ever after leaping 8.34m and bagging silver at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast earlier this year. 

Hall returns to the Diamond League circuit after a national record run in Eugene bolstered the 26-year old’s confidence. A field with five sub-four minute performers could push Hall under the formidable time barrier. Laura Muir (GBR, 3:55.22) and Jenny Simpson (USA, 3:57.22) will join Hall, reuniting the three in-form athletes following a thrilling race at the Prefontaine Classic.

In the men’s 1500m Jordan Williamsz has a second opportunity to take on a Norwegian teenage phenom, as he races Jakob Ingebrigtsen in the National 1500m race, following a 3:38.21 seasons best in Oslo earlier in the week where his Nordic rival placed second. 

Training partners Bol and Deng travel to Stockholm in high-spirits, the opportunity of racing in a quality field not lost on either athlete, as both are well aware of the often nervous process associated with gaining a spot on the starting line in a meet of this calibre. Deng, fresh from a 1:44.97 personal best in Hengelo, is excited and aware of the form he finds himself in. Despite being the newest member of the exclusive club of five Australian men who have broken the 1:45 barrier, talk of a national record, which has stood for nearly 50 years, is something coach Justin Rinaldi remains level-headed about.

“‘In terms of the record - we are not targeting ‘the record’ but targeting being competitive on the world stage and aiming to be ranked in the top 10 in the world. When I say ‘we’ I mean both Deng and Bol, as this is a team working towards a common goal. To achieve that goal, the record should come along with it.” 

The 800 metre event is one where minor errors in judgement can cost an athlete dearly, a concept Rinaldi has reinforced to both gentleman, “The focus is on racing and not chasing a specific time. That said, every athlete would love to be a National Record holder at some point in their career.

Rinaldi has a unique history with the event, having coached equal national record-holder Alex Rowe to a 1:44.40 clocking in Monaco in 2014.

“For me as a coach, I see the record as unfinished business, after having Rowe equal it in 2014. 1:44.40 was a great run, a WR run in 1968, but the world has moved on in the last 50 years and we have been left behind.” 

Rinaldi went on to reiterate the focus he instils in his Melbourne-based training group, one of being competitive on a global stage, remaining unconstrained by time barriers.

“My aim (without being disrespectful to either Doubell or Rowe), is to make the record more respectful on the world stage. It really needs to be in the low 1:43 high 1:42 range by 2020. The only way to achieve that is by chasing the very best in the world and not by chasing 1:44 something. Deng will do that in Paris when he lines up alongside them aiming to win his first Diamond League race.”

Both Bol and Deng agreed that their goal is to “make winning a habit”, embracing the pace provided by a Stockholm field containing Alfred Kipketer (KEN, 1:42.87), Andrew Osagie (GBR, 1:43.77) and Andreas Bube (DEN, 1:44.89), as both athletes look to move up the Australian all-time list, ranked equal seventh and fifth respectively.

Sean Whipp for Athletics Australia

Photo credit: @josephdeng01

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