Aussie Oly Relay Medallist In Hurdles Move

tackles new hurdle
By Jenny McAsey
October 25, 2004

NOT content with an Athens Olympics relay silver medal, 400m runner Clinton Hill is to take on the significant challenge of mastering the one-lap hurdles.

Before he went to Athens, Hill, 24, was considering giving athletics away after the Games.

Now, buoyed by his relay success, he is adding the technically difficult 400m hurdles event to his repertoire.

“I was so despondent and frustrated before the Olympics with the way the sport was going here,” Hill said yesterday.

“I wasn’t making a living and I didn’t want to do things 50-50.”

The stunning performance of Australia’s 4x400m relay team, which shocked the world by winning silver behind the dominant US team, has changed everything.

Hill, the national 400m champion, ran the anchor leg in Athens. He received the baton in fifth position then pounced on the back straight, tearing past three runners to round the final bend 5m clear of the pack.

He then held on desperately to finish second and breaking a 24- year drought for Australian men in Olympic track events.

The relay medal was consolation for his immense disappointment at being run out in the heats of the individual 400m in Athens.

Hill has spent the past two months not only basking in the medal glory, but also making momentous decisions about his future before he resumed training last week.

After several years under the guidance of coach Michael Khmel, Sydney-based Hill has returned to his first coach, Paul Laurendet, and decided to try the hurdles.

Laurendet’s wife, Jenny, was a 400m hurdler in the late 1980s, whose best performance is eighth on the Australia all-time list, and she will also be on hand to help.

“I just wanted to change things about,” said Hill, a top level junior soccer player, who came to Australia with his family from South Africa in 1997.

"The endurance training for the hurdles will be the same as the 400 metres, so it is just learning the technical side. I’m a rhythm runner, so people say I’m suited to the hurdles.

“At the end of the day, it will help my 400m flat even more. It will help me to squeeze everything out of myself and that can make the difference. I’m positive and confident it will work.”

Australia’s world champion female 400m hurdler, Jana Pittman, was one of the first people Hill told about his decision. “She was so excited,” Hill said.

Hill will work on his fitness during the next month before tackling the hurdles at training in December.

He believes he will be ready to compete in the event during Athletics Australia’s domestic season, which begins in Perth on January 9.

“I will have a crack at the hurdles in late January or early February,” Hill said.

A three-time national 400m champion, Hill has a best time of 45.16sec for the flat race, which he set in Europe in July.

The world’s best male 400m hurdlers hit the finish line in the 48sec range and Hill said he wants to get to that level before he considers competing in the event at overseas meets.