Aussie Champs Day#2 -3Feb06- Josh Ross 3peats in 100

Ross times it perfectly but Pittman has a disastrous race - Australian Champs, Day 2

Friday 3 February 2006
Sydney, Australia - Joshua Ross timed his run perfectly to retain his 100 metres crown at the 84th Telstra Australian Championships today but Jana Pittman’s comeback for the Commonwealth Games has run into difficulty.

It is all in the mind for Ross

Melbourne’s Tamsyn Lewis, the winner of the women’s 400m talks to Pittman after the final - Australian Champs
(Getty Images)

Ross, a 100m semi-finalist at the 2005 Helsinki World Championships, could manage only sixth in the A-series 100m in Canberra last week, but at Sydney Olympic Park his form suddenly sparkled as brightly as the 60-point diamond stud earring he now sports.

Having resorted to seeking help from a “mind coach” (sports psychologist) since Canberra, Ross detonated from the starting blocks and constructed a fine race to win his third consecutive 100m title in 10.35 (headwind 1.2m/s) from Nigeria-born Ambrose Ezenwa (10.37).

The nationals also serve as the major selection trial for Australia’s Games team, and Patrick Johnson (10.39) struggled to show signs of his national record (9.93) form of early 2003, but he was obliged to sit and wait in the tense final after being called for breaking.

Former record holder and five-time national 100m champion Matt Shirvington, who won in Canberra on 26 January, faded to fifth in 10.40 behind fellow Olympian Adam Miller (10.39) and it is conceivable that with Helsinki relay finalists Daniel Batman and Kris Neofytu opting to race only the 200m at these nationals, Shirvington may yet even be dislodged from Australia’s 4x100m squad for the Melbourne Games.

Pittman‘s comeback stalls

Shirvington appeared to shed a tear at this realisation, but Jana Pittman was too shocked by her own mysterious and disastrous run to finish last in the 400m final.

The 2003 World champion in the 400m Hurdles had been thinking of doubling with the 400m sprint at the Melbourne Games, but if judged purely on the basis of this run she too could miss Australia’s 4x400m relay squad.

New Zealand’s reliable and rugged Jane Arnott won the Australian Championship in 51.98s with Sydney Olympic 800m semi-finalist, Melbourne’s Tamsyn Lewis claiming the national title in second place with 52.36 from Rosemary Hayward (52.79), 2005 World Youth Championships team captain Jaimee-Lee Hoebergen (52.87), Caitlin Willis (53.06), Renee Robson (53.09), former national champion Annabelle Smith (53.47) all ahead of Pittman.

"I am shocked, so shocked. I don’t understand it, that is by far my worst performance. I don’t really know where to start - I’m in good shape and today it did not show,’’ Pittman said following her first 400m sprint race since recovering from a stress fracture in her spine diagnosed in July 2005.

“I have to go back to the drawing board and work out who on earth that happened. I am very disappointed with myself - I have no excuses. I didn’t feel bad warming up but at 200m I had nothing, absolutely nothing. With 100 to go my legs wouldn’t move. I couldn’t chase and that is not like me.”

There had been considerable play in the Australian media about a feud between Pittman and Lewis, but if this faint pressure disabled Pittman then she has bigger hurdles ahead. More likely is an error in the time-line of her training buildup to the Games, whereby her special speed endurance is not yet quite where it needed to be.

McLellan makes it to the title outright this time

Last year Queenslander Sally McLellan tied for the women’s 100m title but today she lifted crown alone after running 11.66 (headwind 0.4m/s) to defeat the Northern Territory’s Crystal Attenborough (11.81), Queensland’s Melanie Kleeberg (11.82), Tania Van Heer-Murphy (11.83), Sydney’s Preya Carey (11.85) and Victorian, Lauren Hewitt (11.90).

Hewitt, a stalwart of the Australian team, only returned to competition within the last month after foot surgery.

But Van Heer-Murphy, 35, was returning after having two children. She broke down in tears of joy after a run which probably secured at least a 4x100m relay squad spot at the Melbourne Games. She won the individual 100 bronze medal at the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Games.

Twelve in a row for veteran Murphy

Another magnificent veteran, Sydney triple jumper Andrew Murphy, 36, also inspired his home crowd by winning his 12th consecutive national title and his 13th in total to become the most prolific Australian champion in history. He surpassed discus thrower Warwick Selvey and walker Kerry Saxby-Junna, who each won 12 national titles.

Fourth-placed at the 1999 World Indoor and outdoor championships, Murphy bounded out to 16.67m (+ 1.6m/s) to defeat Newcastle’s Michael Perry (16.44; +1.2m/s), Canberra’s Jacob McReynolds (16.43m; +0.2m/s) and young Adelaide prospect Alwyn Jones (16.23; +0.1m/s).

"I wondered whether I should have stepped aside for the younger guys, then my wife Liz said if they can’t beat a 36-year-old then they don’t deserve a spot on the team, they’ve got to earn it,’’ Murphy said.

Thompson reclaims Long Jump crown

Queenslander Bronwyn Thompson regained her title in the other horizontal jump contested today, winning the long jump with an encouraging distance of 6.67m. Canberra’s Kerrie Taurima - the wife of Sydney Olympic silver medallist, Jai Taurima - won silver of her own today 18cm arrears of Thompson with New Zealander Chantal Bruner third (6.47m).

A paediatric physiotherapist, Thompson finished fourth at the Athens Olympics and in her very next competition in Rieti she folded over her knee crash-landing and needed reconstruction surgery. Today was her longest leap since the Olympics.

“I’m ecstatic - it’s been a long journey over the last 18 months. I’m in great shape and had the best series of jumps tonight since my injury. I was disappointed with my performance in Manchester so I get the chance to go better in Melbourne, which is my favourite place to compete,” Thompson said.

Jamieson and Walsham seem to be Melbourne bound

Victorian Sarah Jamieson proved she had fully recovered from recent injury to win the 1500m in 4:05.52 from Sydney chartered accountant Suzy Walsham (4:08.72), both women bettering the Athletics Australia A-qualifying time for the Games to gain automatic Commonwealth team selection.

For Walsham the nomination ends 16-years of disappointment at never having won selection for an Olympic or Commonwealth Games. In 1990 as a barefoot 14-year-old Walsham was considered too young to be pitched into the Auckland Games even though she defeated Bev Nicholson to win a 1500m race in Sydney just a couple of weeks before the English runner won the Commonwealth bronze medal.

Thereafter Walsham was slayed by a series of no less than a dozen stress fractures in her legs and thighs which would have ended the career of someone of lesser character.

Wollongong’s Lachlan Chisholm retained the men’s 1500 leading every step of the race but his winning time of 3:40.87 was outside AA’s qualifying time. The selectors now face a dilemma because Chisholm, returning from injury, defeated five others who do have the all-important times on the board.

US-based Mark Fountain, who ran 3:33.68 in Italy last year, seriously jeopardised his own selection prospects by finishing only fourth today in 3:41.36 behind also Victoria’s Collis Birmingham (3:41.03) and NSW’s Paul Hoffman (3:41.05).

In the absence of Athens Olympic finalist Justin Anlezark (recovering from a strained finger), Victoria’s Scott Martin won the shot put with 19.64m from Sydney’s Clay Cross (18.77) and a close javelin contest went to New Zealand’s Stuart Farquhar (81.70m) from West Australian Oliver Dziubak (81.57m) and Sydney architect Will Hamlyn-Harris (79.19m).

Jason Dudley (personal best 7895 points) led three fellow Queenslanders in the Decathlon.

Helsinki World Championship finalist John Steffensen, coached by American sprints guru John Smith, won his semi-final of the 400m pointing his finger at the infield clock which displayed 45.29 - a personal best time for him.

But South Africa-born Sydneysider Clinton Hill, the man who so brilliantly anchored the Australian “silver bullets” to finish second in the Athens Olympic 4x400m relay, looked conservative winning his semi in 45.63. Another West Australian, Chris Troode, won the third semi in 45.75.

The 1997 Athens World champion Beatrice Faumuina of New Zealand won the women’s Discus Throw with a modest 56.64m effort ahead of Sydney’s 17-year-old Marrakesh World Youth Champion, Dani Samuels (54.72). A day earlier Samuels was also the first Australian in the Shot Put with her huge personal best of 15.98m which earned second place to Tonga’s Ana Po’uhila.

Another Tongan, Melehifo Uhi, grabbed third in the Discus with her best today of 50.41m, nudging out Queensland’s Monique Nacsa by just 1cm with Tereapii Tapoki of the Cook Islands next best with a promising 48.63m.

Mike Hurst for the IAAF

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