Athletics Australia: done it's dash

Found this in “The Australian” this morning:

"IN January, Adam Miller ran 10.29sec, putting him at the top of the Australian sprint table and on target for the Beijing Olympics.

Yesterday, his name remained at the top of the 2008 100m rankings, but Miller was a retired athlete serving wine to customers at a Canberra restaurant, relishing his role as a trainee sommelier rather than a sprinter.

Patrick Johnson and Josh Ross also clocked 10.29sec this year. Last month, Johnson lost his scholarship at the AIS as the nation’s peak sports institute shut down its sprint program permanently. He moved to Brisbane to try his luck with a new coach and a largely self-funded program.

Ross has shifted from Sydney, where national sprints coaching co-ordinator Paul Hallam has just been axed from his job at the NSW Institute of Sport, to Melbourne in a last-ditch attempt to get his promising career back on course.

At any athletics carnival, from the local school sports to the Olympic Games, the 100 metres is always the contest that brings the crowd to a hush.

But as 2008 draws to a close, Australian sprinting is going nowhere fast. A lack of funding, a lack of faith and a shallow talent pool have combined to leave the feature 100m and 200m events facing an uncertain future.

At the Beijing Olympics. where Usain Bolt became a global star with his all-conquering sprint performances, there were no Australians to cheer in either the men’s or women’s 100m and 200m, or the sprint relays.

It was the first time in 28 years, since the 1980 Olympics, that Australia did not have a competitor in the men’s sprints.

But rather than mounting an all-out effort to boost sprint stocks, Athletics Australia is taking the attitude that the sprints may be simply too hard - especially for a largely white population.

AA, chronically short of money and without a major sponsor for the past year, recently told Hallam it would end funding for his role as head of the national sprints program. And for the first time in more than 10 years, there will be no sprinters on scholarship in Canberra after Johnson, Daniel Batman and Miller all either lost their funding or retired.

On recent results, they probably did not warrant ongoing support, but long-time coaches are worried about the lack of will to foster the next sprint generation. AA chief executive Danny Corcoran signalled yesterday sprinting was no longer a priority and the focus would be on more technical events, where Australia is strong.

“The general feeling is that on the world stage it is a very tough event to have an individual sprinter at 100 or 200 metres. We haven’t had an individual finalist for a long time … there hasn’t been a (good) white sprinter for a very, very long time,” Corcoran said. “We are looking at competing in events where we can win medals. There is no secret the walks is an event we can target, pole vault is an event we can target, the hurdles, short and long (100m, 110m and 400m), we can target because they are technical events.”

Corcoran says AA will back a relay program - a turnaround given it did not send a men’s 4x100m relay team to Beijing even though Australia had qualified to go.

But AA’s attitude to the sprints has been met with disquiet.

“I don’t agree it is right to write off a whole group of events,” said Tudor Bidder, athletics performance manager at the AIS.

"You can concentrate your efforts into certain events, but you should never shut the door on somebody coming from left or right of that.

“There is nothing to say a great sprinter can’t come along, provided the environment is there. And what we should be trying to do is create the environment.”

He cites Johnson, whom he coached at the AIS. The only Australian to have run sub-10sec, he was discovered by former AIS coach Esa Peltola when he looked out his office window and saw Johnson running at the Australian University Games.

Today, if Bidder spotted an athlete with similar raw talent there would be no option to place him or her on an AIS sprint scholarship.

It is also worth noting that Australia’s medal success on the world stage since the late 1990s has come in events as varied as high jump (Tim Forsyth), javelin (Joanna Stone), hammer throw (Brownyn Eagles), marathon (Steve Moneghetti), walks (Nathan Deakes, Jared Tallent and Jane Saville), pole vault (Dmitri Markov, Tatiana Grigorieva and Steven Hooker), long jump (Jai Taurima), 400m (Cathy Freeman), hurdles (Jana Rawlinson and Sally McLellan), 5000m (Craig Mottram) and the men’s 4x400m relay.

Craig Hilliard, who coached Taurima and now coaches Deakes, says no event should be ignored.

“I don’t think you can afford to do that in our sport. Sure you can target events, but those events and disciplines are cyclical. Some years we are strong in jumps or throws and then all of a sudden they disappear, that is the nature of our sport.”

Miller, 24, is happily retired but holds out hope Australian sprinting is not a lost cause.

"You can’t shut the door and say we are only going to do relays. Hopefully some unknowns will come through like Patrick and Matt Shirvington did.

“They arrived out of nowhere through the school system and we need more people to jump out of the woodwork.”

But he adds a sobering note.

“My best time was 10.17sec and that was good for Australia but it was nothing on the international stage,” Miller says. “Still to this day not one Caucasian male has ever broken 10 seconds and that says a lot about genetics and the make-up of human beings.”"

Seems like they’ve given up completely. I mean not sending 1/2 guys to the Olympics was disappointing but this is just sad. NSWIS were complaining about the lack of junior talent going on to represent Australia early this year, but how is even LESS money going to help that?! They’ve pretty much told everyone with any talent the governing body isn’t willing to support you and any dreams they might have isn’t worth their time. I understand the monetary issues they have but it’s disgusting that they (and the government) won’t even give ANYONE a chance. This is supposed to be a ‘sporting’ nation, is it not?


I think it is both disapointing and disconcerting to hear that Athletics Australia are disregarding the sprints in favour of concentrating on other events where medals and results are more favourable. Athletics in Australia is dying a slow and horrible death, no wonder talented young Australian athletes who could very well succeed in the Track and Field arena foray into other sports such as Rugby League and Union.:mad:

We need to look at it from AA’s perspective too, I mean, the sprints are such volatile events. Look at Miller this year. He was the form sprinter going in to Nationals and he was probs gonna be the National Champ at 100m. Then he tore his hamstring and what? So risky. They can put years of money and effort into guys and then they might pop something a week out from a major competition.

With that said, injuries can (and do) happen in other events like that – look at Nathan Deakes this year (in none other than the walks!). So I think AA’s being a bit myopic here. What’s going to happen in five years time? Like glimpse said above, they’ll run 10.6x in high school and get offered some nice things from well organized team sports…

the sprints are the high profile events, and I believe that interest in them would draw more people to the sport and have a beneficial effect for the other events, too. without a strong sprint program they are going to be getting smaller crowds at meets and less strength in athletics in general.

to use a cricket analogy, statistic have shown that winning sides are usually the team that scores the most singles. some coaches see that and instruct their batsmen to go out and look for singles. the result is that the bowling side brings all the fielders in and the singles dry up. what they didn’t realise is that the side that scores the most singles does so because they hit the ball hard so that all the fielders go back further. AA have seen that they have more success in “fringe” events and have decided to drop the main events to concentrate on them. however, I’m pretty sure that this approach would weaken those other events, as well…

Very well said HB - what they have done is just another step to kill off the sport - no foresight whatsoever!


First you dump the relay- then you complain you get no points. Gee! Do you think you need to be there first?
We’ll see how successful things are when Athletics Aus gives the distance runners their wet dream.
There has never- REPEAT NEVER- been a successful program based on picking out a few and supporting them. That’s just the desperate last gasp of failed bureaucrats before their departure to well deserved oblivion.

I really hope so for all federations where this happens! The question then may be who’s left in the end to force them to departure… :slight_smile:

Bureaucrats will ultimately self-limit because they are the locusts who eat the federation funds in an endless zero-sum game against their constituency till there are no high performance athletes left.
This end game proves to all their utter uselessness.

Charlie while this may be the case in many instances to use a blanket statement is unfair. There are some who are trying to make a difference but they alone can’t fix things and it needs commitment from the whole sport community. Unfortunately there are some within sports (competitors, parents, coaches, administrators) who are resistant to any progress and aren’t prepared to ‘be a participant in their own rescue’ and would rather bitch and moan than get stuck in and help. I know this from personal experience as a sports administrator.

That said I do think the decisions above by AA are incorrect.

As an athlete and coach on the receiving end of this for decades, I can state catagorically that this IS the case whenever the sport is shrinking, not growing.
This phenominon is both the cause and the result.

I’m not australian but this is an incredibly depressing article. I don’t understand how any group of people can be this stupid.

“We haven’t had an individual finalist for a long time … there hasn’t been a (good) white sprinter for a very, very long time”

Is he talking in general or just Australian? A white sprinter won the Olympic 200 when it was in Australia…

and the less said about that guy the better

Charlie while I respect many of the things you say your tendency to see certain things as absolutes is something I don’t always agree with. Unfortunately there are many who share your all administrators are the bad guys view which is often a big part of the reason those trying hard to bring about positive change leave. It simply isn’t worth giving up at least 30% less than in the commercial world to put up with crap from people who are quick to apportion blame and not prepared to help fix things.

Not all administrators! Many are or have been successful on behalf of their constituency.
I also can hardly be described as someone who sat on the sidelines.
My point is that the people who are incompetent/self serving enough to shrink the talent pool will carry on through to the end as I described.
My opinion of Bush, Cheney and his crowd also doesn’t imply that all politicians are as scummy as they are either.

Did not a white Ozzie girl win silver at the last olympics in the 100h? I’d call that a sprint event.

Also Austalia won silver in the Athens olympic mens 4x400. Another sprint event.

Track aand field has been falling behind in all western countries over the last few decades. The reasons are numerous.
In my opinion big media has alot to do with it. They pick and choose the sports they want to cover and then go about promoting them.

True, just pointing out that being a succesful white sprinter, though maybe not the norm, is not a contradiction in terms.

Australia had a guy that probably should have gone well below 10 a few years back…

And PJ, though not “white”, is Australian and had some good years, so you would think it occur to them that their country is capable of growing some talent.

edit: just noticed that Miller is retired from running at 24…!

Australia has a tremendously rich history in the Olympic Sprints

Melissa Breen (coached by Matty Beckenham), a schoolgirl just turned 18, from Canberra last weekend clocked 100m in 11.33sec (+1.9) which makes her second fastest Australian junior ever behind the great Raelene Boyle. It was also a Berlin world championships B-qualifier and 0.03sec shy of the A-mark.

So much for AA deciding to give up on the sprints. They don’t even seem to recognise or support the junior talent that’s already on the track

Geez, look at the arm on her!
And the long calf muscle too
Good to see she is running well.
Whats the goss on Matty Beckenham??

Matty’s a real good guy – he was a solid 400 hurdler only a few years back, and has had a good squad of sprinters for about 2 or 3 years now. Another one to watch out for is Brandon Galic. He’s barely 21 and given the seeming strife that the Aussie sprints are in atm, Galic might even take out the National Title (he’s in about 10.3-.4 form right now I reckon). So Matty’s been doing well.