Aussie 4x4 reunion


Hill back in relay contention Font Size: Decrease Increase Print Page: Print Jenny McAsey | August 13, 2007
TWO weeks ago Olympic silver relay medallist Clinton Hill returned from Europe with an achilles heel so painful he had to pull out of the team for this month’s world championships.

But back home at his AIS base in Canberra, Hill has found the source of the pain - a “malfunctioning big toe” - and recovered so rapidly he is now a strong chance to join the relay team at the world titles in Osaka, starting on August 25.

If Hill makes it, Australia could boast three Olympic silver medallists and the newly crowned World University Games champion, Sean Wroe, in the men’s 4x400m relay team.

The up-and-coming Wroe buoyed the team’s prospects by winning the 400m University Games gold medal in Bangkok on Saturday.

Wroe ran a blistering first 200m and finished well to clock 45.49sec for victory. Another world championship relay squad member, 19-year-old Dylan Grant, also made the final and was fifth in 46.35sec.

Wroe, who has a Japanese mother, will head to Osaka to run the individual 400m and the relay feeling more comfortable than ever. “My race plan was to take it out hard to put pressure on the field, then squeeze the last 100m and finish really strongly,” Wroe said.

“I have been focused on running well here in the lead-up to the worlds. The opportunity to run three hard rounds is great preparation and I now feel more confident going to Osaka.”

Wroe, 22, joins an impressive list of Australians who have won gold at the World University Games, a high quality competition for developing athletes.

Other uni games gold medallists include Ralph Doubell, who won the 800m in 1967 and went on to win Olympic gold in 1968, and pole vault pioneer Emma George who triumphed in 1997 before going on to set a number of world records.

Wroe will have to run considerably faster than 45.49sec to reach the 400m semi-final in Osaka but he is in good shape to make a contribution to the relay.

The 400m world leader is American Jeremy Wariner who ran 43.50sec in Stockholm last week. It was the sixth fastest time in history and Wariner will head to Osaka knowing he is more than half a second quicker than his nearest rival.

Wroe, Grant and Hill - if he does make it - will join Commonwealth Games gold medallist John Steffensen in the relay squad, as well as teenager Kurt Mulcahy and Mark Ormrod.

Ormrod, Hill and Steffensen combined with the now-retired Pat Dwyer to win a surprise silver medal in the 4x400m relay at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Steffensen, who will also run the individual one-lap in Osaka, is in excellent form with a best time this season of 44.92sec, which he ran to finish second in Monaco in late July.

Hill, hampered by injury since January, will make a decision after a time trial in Cairns next Saturday. “If I can run around mid 45 (seconds) I will go to Osaka,” Hill said.

Athletics Australia selectors are likely to add several young athletes to the world championships team, which now numbers 44, when final nominations close today. Jeff Riseley, an 800m runner who ran a personal best of 1:46.35sec for fifth place last week at a major meet in Stockholm, is likely to be given the opportunity to gain more international experience in Osaka.

Javelin thrower Josh Robinson, who was fifth in the World University Games final with 77.86m, is also being considered along with 110m hurdler Justin Merlino. Like Riseley, both have B-standard qualifying marks.

As well, the selectors will decide whether to include national 100m record holder Patrick Johnson in the 4x100m relay squad. He has been left out so far for apparently failing to demonstrate commitment to the relay program.