Aussie Champs 09, Day 1

Thursday, 19 March 2009
McLellan eyeing national 100m mark, Vili again beyond 20m in Shot – Australian Champs, Day 1

Sally McClellan in the 100m heats in Brisbane (Getty Images)


Brisbane, Australia - Sally McLellan is in record shape for the 87th Australian athletics championships which started in Brisbane today (19).

But while her coach wouldn’t predict in which event, Sharon Hannan did say that if McLellan gets Melinda Gainsford-Taylor’s 15-year-old 100m sprint mark then the world record in the 100m hurdles would be within sight.

“If Sally can break that 100m record and run 11.1, she could potentially run 12.2 over the hurdles, eventually when she learns to control that speed over 10 barriers,” Hannan said yesterday.

“She could definitely break that World record for the hurdles by 2012.”

The 100m Hurdles World record was set at 12.21 by the Bulgarian Yordanka Donkova in 1988.

McLellan, 22, the surprise Olympic silver medallist will compete in both the 100m hurdles and the 100m sprint at the nationals which wrap up on Saturday.

“With good weather conditions it will be exciting,” Hannan said. “She’s in really good shape. Definitely.”

Hannan, who coaches at Griffith University on the Gold Coast, said McLellan hoped to regain both titles after missing last year’s championships with a hamstring injury.

However McLellan would be available only for the hurdles and 4x100m relay at the world athletics championships in Berlin from August 15-23.

McLellan already holds the Australian 100m Hurdles record at 12.53sec set in Monaco last year. But so far the 100m sprint record has eluded her.

The sprint mark of 11.12 was run by Gainsford-Taylor in the Italian ski resort town of Sestriere in July 1994. In her new capacity as a national team selector, she is trackside in Brisbane to watch McLellan’s record bid.

McLellan’s fastest 100m to date was the 11.14 she clocked in 2007.

“The focus for these nationals hasn’t gone one way or the other,” Hannan said. "But definitely her sprinting improves her hurdles speed.

"I’m happy to keep developing Sally’s speed, so long as it comes with control.

“Sally doesn’t like talking about the hurdles world record, but she’s started talking a bit about the Australian 100m sprint record so that’s good.”

While McLellan is in a class of her own as a hurdler in this country, the level of women’s sprinting is on the rise at last and Canberra’s 18-year-old Melissa Breen is likely to be selected for the world championships in the 100m, especially if she can keep McLellan honest in the national title race.

McLellan was fastest in today’s first-round heats winning in 11.40sec (+0.1m/s) with Breen next quickest in winning another heat in 11.50 (+0.4).

Four-time Australian title winner Joshua Ross was fastest qualifier for tomorrow’s semis with his heat win in 10.43 (0.0), ahead of Aaron Rouge-Serret (10.45) and Beijing 400m semi-finalist Sean Wroe (10.61) who is making a rare attempt to win the sprint treble here.

Wroe, who has been coached in Melbourne by former British decathlon international Eric Hollingsworth - Australia’s new head coach - later won his heat of the 400m in 46.21 to be fastest qualifier for tomorrow’s final.

Other heat winners were Kurt Mulcahy (46.61) and John Steffensen (46.29) who finished clear of defending champion and Beijing semi-finalist Joel Milburn (47.32).

Vili again reaches beyond 20m

The stand-out performance of the opening day was the shot put victory by Valerie Vili, the towering New Zealander who overwhelmingly dominates this event globally.

Olympic, World, World Cup and Commonwealth champion, Vili sealed the outcome on her opening put with a 20.22m effort and back that up with 19.92m, 20.14m, 19.97m, a foul and then 19.39m.

Her toss was just shy of her world-leading 20.25m effort from Waitakere last month.

Tonga’s Ana Pouhila grabbed second place with a 16.94m effort from Sydney’s young Beijing discus finalist Dani Samuels who found her best (16.30m) in the sixth and final round.

In a switch, Lewis contesting 400m Hurdles

In the absence of World titleholder Jana Rawlinson who is once again troubled by injury (to her calf), Melbourne’s World Indoor 800m titleholder Tamsyn Lewis has switched to the 400m hurdles.

Lewis, 30, a nine-time winner of the Australian 800m title, is making an all-out bid to run this event at the next Commonwealth Games in Delhi next year.

She dominated her heat today in 58.92sec, but Canberra’s young Lauren Boden will be hard to defeat in the final if she runs to form. Although she won her heat today in 58.03, she ran 56.1 last week.

Lewis backed up to win her heat of the 400m sprint today in 52.39 and if she finds a good rhythm and technique over the 400 hurdles she will surely have the strength to make an international impression in her new event.

New Zealand’s Monique Williams was second fastest in the 400m sprint heats today with 53.45 from Japan’s Asami Tanno (53.66) and international 800m runner Madeline Pape of Victoria who also qualified for the final in 53.84.

Sydney’s Algeria-born Beijing Olympic steeplechase finalist Youcef Abdi didn’t have things all his own way in the last race of the program on Day 1, but he won in 8min 38.65sec from Queenslander Pete Nowill (8:40.91).

Alwyn Jones (Victoria) found his best form of the summer at the appropriate moment to win the triple jump with a fifth-round leap of 16.83m (+0.8). The Commonwealth Games medallist also had a solid back-up effort of 16.71m (+1.4).

Mike Hurst (Sydney Daily Telegraph) for the IAAF

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