From Sydney’s Daily Telegraph
Cathy’s time to reflect on Athens
By MIKE HURST
The mirror Cathy Freeman looked into at Homebush on Saturday told her what
she needed to know about her ranking on the track these days.
You’re as good as your last race and the Olympic 400m champion ran 51.81sec
in the Telstra A-series and lost by 10m to the rampaging Commonwealth 400m
hurdles champion Jana Pittman who won in 50.43sec.
Nothing will ever detract from what Freeman has achieved, but her bubble has
been burst and, for her own sake, none too soon.
Freeman has plenty of time and the goodwill and support of everyone in the
sport, including Pittman and her coach Phil King, to get her track act back
together in time to do something significant again at the Olympics in Athens
It depends on whether she really is still as hungry as she keeps saying she
is to win again and to make all the sacrifices again.
But as her own coach Peter Fortune lamented last week she’s had a fair bit
of time off for one reason or another and ``you can’t just wave a magic
wand’’ to restore the fitness which has ebbed away since she ran 49.11sec to
win Olympic gold at Homebush on September 25, 2000.
As for the Paris world championships in August this year Freeman is now
definitely on the team with her B-qualifying time on the weekend, but
50.71sec was the slowest into the 400m final at the last world championships
two years ago.
Freeman is capable of bridging that substantial gap which would justify her
Paris campaign. If she does, then look out Athens.
The metaphorical mirror reflected Pittman’s status as Australia’s top
athlete but, as it revealed Freeman’s flaws, so did it expose Pittman’s.
Based on all the technical models extrapolated from her hurdles times and
her sprint training sets Pittman ran to the fastest extremity of the
The fact she actually broke her national 300m record with a 36.30sec split
in transit to beating Freeman indicates this was a true test of her
The issue for Pittman is the concept of strength-through-speed: unless she
can reduce her 200m best from 23.5sec her improvement over 400m will be
And that would have implications limiting her ability to improve over 400m
She may find 0.2sec in the last 100m on the already excellent 14.06sec she
ran against Freeman, but that suggests any significant improvement over the
hurdles will necessarily come from technical efficiencies in clearing the 10
barriers and in her stride pattern.
These matters alone will not be sufficient for her to challenge the world
For Freeman, her 300m split time of 36.73sec was still fast enough for her
to break 50sec for 400m if she could summon her old home straight finish. In
her 49.11sec Olympic gold medal run _ the last time she competed in Sydney _
Freeman ran 36.14sec at 300m.
But then she split 12.97sec for the final 100m. Against Pittman, her last
100m of 15.08sec showed her exactly what she has lost.