Aussie Champs Day#4 -5Feb06- Johnson 20.49 (-1.5) at age 33

Mottram looking forward to Limo rematch - Australian Champs, Day 4

Sunday 5 February 2006
Sydney, Australia - In Craig Mottram’s mind the credibility of a victory is enhanced by the calibre of the opposition, so he appeared genuinely delighted that Kenya’s reigning World champion, Ben Limo, will race him over 5000m at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games next month.

Mottram easily dispenses with Commonwealth Games qualification formalities

Melissa Rollison after her win at the 2006 Australian Championships
(Getty Images)

Mottram went through the formalities of qualifying for the Games by winning the 5000m at Sydney Olympic Park in the last event of the 84th Telstra Australian Championships, which doubled as the major selection trial for the Commonwealth Games.

The tall Victorian ran 1:53 for the last two laps to open a 10sec lead over the field and win as he pleased in 13:47.44 while pulling youngsters Lou Rowan (13:57.92), Collis Birmingham (13:58.15) and David Byrne (13:58.43) also under 14min.

Mottram, who has run the journey in under-13min, won an historic bronze medal in Helsinki behind Limo and Ethiopian Sileshi Sihine, whom he defeated in his only previous race this year to win a two-mile indoors at Boston late last month.

Paul Burgess winning at the 2006 Australian Championships
(Getty Images)

“I’ve been preparing as though he (Limo) was coming out and I was proven right today,” Mottram said after learning that the man who represents both friend and foe had changed his mind and decided to accept nomination to the Kenyan team, selected yesterday.

Limo had planned to aim solely at the World Cross-Country Championship, but his agent, Ricky Simms of Pace Sports Management, said: “His training has been going very well and we have decided he can attempt the double. There has been some pressure for him to run in the Commonwealth Games and he is proud to represent his country in both championships.”

Following Mottram’s storming of “fortress Africa” in the World Championship 5000 final, Limo told the Australian he was intending to run at the Games but would not return to Kenya with “another silver medal” as was the case at the last Manchester Games in 2002.

Suzy Walsham celebrates her win at the 2006 Australian Championships
(Getty Images)

Bronze will be good then, Mottram retorted with a wry smile.

"Ben laughed and said ‘no chance’, " Mottram recalled. “From that day on there’s been some mucking around rivalry and the impression I got at the time was that he wanted to come out.”

For promotional purposes without any doubt the men’s 5000m will now be the focus point of the Games, helped by the fact Mottram is a genuinely witty, articulate and well-performed ambassador for his sport. He is likely to be granted his request to also compete in the 1500m, given his credentials as a sub-3:50 miler.

Three more outings before Melbourne

Mottram will race over a mile in New Zealand this week before competing in the Games main stadium, the cavernous Melbourne Cricket Ground, in the Victorian state championships. He will have his final competition in the IAAF World Tour event in Melbourne on March 9 before catching up with Limo and his Kenyan teammates in the Games.

He is coached by Nic Bideau, whose squad includes his partner Sonia O’Sullivan, Benita Johnson (10,000 winner), Eloise Wellings (5000m winner) and the 3000m Steeplechase winner and former World record-holder Melissa Rollison who is rolling again after three years wasted through bad training and injuries including stress fractures and Achilles tendonitis.

Rollison’s strong comeback comeback continues

Rollison, who burst onto the scene by winning the 2001 Goodwill Games Steeplechase in 9:30.70, won yesterday in 9:35.46 from Tasmania’s Donna MacFarlane (9:40.06), New Zealander Kate McIlroy (9:40.20) and Victoria Mitchell (9:44.06) from Victoria.

"I started training (only) 10 weeks ago. I’ve been injured for about three years, had a bit of coaching trouble for a year and a half and then took a year and a half to get over it,’’ Rollison said. "I’ve finally got a good coach and now I’m getting back into it.

“I want to run around nine minutes for the Commonwealth Games - nine minutes would win it.” The Commonwealth record is 9:15.04 by Uganda’s Dorcus Inzikuru, the World title-holder.

But for a record run of injuries and misfortune, Sydney’s 32-year-old chartered accountant Suzy Walsham has few challengers. Yet, after 16 years trying and failing to earn selection in a Games team, she clinched automatic selection in two events for the Melbourne Games.

Walsham was runner-up in the 1500m and won the 800m in a smart 2:01.85, a bonus she deserves for perseverence and the class and character she has always displayed in the face of so much bitter disappointment.

200m PB for Johnson

Patrick Johnson, the world’s fastest 100m performer at 9.93 in 2003 and a Helsinki 2005 World Championship 200m finalist, is another pre-veteran at age 33, but he ran his personal best time in winning the Australian 200m title in 20.49 - into a 1.5m/s headwind.

Johnson defeated his Australian Institute of Sport training partner Daniel Batman (20.65), Nigeria-born naturalised Australia, Ambrose Ezenwa (20.78) and another AIS scholarship-holder in Athens Olympian Adam Miller (20.82).

“I was using the nationals as practice for getting through the rounds, so I was happy to come out of this and run reasonably quick,” said Johnson, who earlier finished third in the 100.

“It is just getting better and better. I have got another five weeks and we have a lot of competitions coming up and you have to be able to back it up - the best in the world are coming so I have to be ready for them.”

Fourth national title for Burgess

Paul “Budgie” Burgess, erstwhile rock 'n roll guitarist and the only man in the world last year to fly over 6m, won the highest standard domestic pole vault competition ever held in Australia.

He scaled 5.80m to claim his fourth national title with his highest clearance away from his home in Perth, Western Australia, with Victoria’s Steve Hooker second over 5.75m and another “six-metre man”, the 2001 World Champion Dmitri Markov, third over 5.70m.

Sydney’s Fabrice Lapierre, currently attending Texas A&M, came from a successful US indoor campaign to win the long jump with 8.12m (wind +1.7m/s) from AIS-based Queenslander Tim Parravicini (7.99m, +3.7m/s) and Lapierre’s former Westfields Sports High schoolmate John Thornell placed third with 7.97m +1.4m/s).

Queenslander Sally McLellan, who won the World Youth Championship 100m hurdles, retained the national title in that event with victory yesterday in 13. 35 against a 1.7m/s headwind. She beat New Zealand’s Andrea Miller (13.70) and Sydney’s young Hayley Cameron (14.10).

The win brought up a 100m and 100m hurdles winning double for McLellan and opted not to contest the 200m, won yesterday by Germany-born Melanie Kleeberg in 23.38 against a 0.5m/s wind.

Kleeberg, yet another Queenslander, defeated the Northern Territory’s Crystal Attenborough (23.47) and the 1999 World Championship finalist Lauren Hewitt (23.48) who ran well for someone who returned to competition only last month following foot surgery.

Scott Martin won the discus throw yesterday with a mark of 62.08m having earlier won the shot put. He defeated fellow Victorians Ben Harradine (60.12m) and Aaron Neighbour (59.14m) as well as NSW’s Peter Elvy (58.64m).

But the best throw of the championship probably belongs to South Australia’s Brooke Krueger-Billett, once the tuna fish throwing “world champion”, who these days sticks to hurling the hammer.

Krueger-Billett joined the 70m club yesterday, winning with 70.72m from Sydney’s Karyne Di Marco (64.86m) and Victoria’s Gabrielle Neighbour (63.48m), the trio representing an imposing squad ready to challenge the Commonwealth Games favourite, Trinidad’s Candice Scott.

Mike Hurst for the IAAF