Jana Pittman Beaten By Handicapper


Pittman is beaten but only by the handicappers
Thursday 1 January 2004

Devonport, Australia - A grass track on the north west coast of Tasmania, about as far away geographically as you can get from the athletic tracks of the European circuit, was the venue for Jana Pittman to commence her Olympic campaign for 2004.

Just four days after Christmas dinner, Pittman joined training partner, New Zealander Rebecca Wardell and coach Phil King for what they described as a three day training camp, with lots of races.

Australia boasts two distinct forms of stadium athletics competition, the standard variety plus a second in which runners compete off different starting marks in a handicapping format.

The second form is particularly popular in Tasmania, where over the holiday period, athletics combines with cycling and woodchopping at carnivals which draw many thousands of spectators.

Runners compete in coloured jackets, according to their lane rather than bib numbers, the athlete running from the back mark, always accorded the honour of the prized red vest

Pittman has followed Cathy Freeman’s lead in making the two night Devonport Carnival the first stop on her annual competition schedule which, in 2004, she hopes will end with gold in the 400 metres hurdles in Athens.

Two 400’s on Day one…

Competing in Devonport for the second time, Pittman is hugely popular with the locals. They cheered wildly on night one as she ran from the scratch mark in the 400 metres, giving away up to 45 metres start to some of her rivals.

She made the final but with only a little over two hours break since her heat run, Jana was unable to run the outmarkers down, Trish Holz winning off a mark of 33m in 52.08.

Day two, three 200’s…

Twenty four hours later, the reigning World 400m Hurdles champion was back for more, this time a heat, semi final and final over 200 metres, all contested within a two hour period.

Although on this occasion her mark of 3m was slightly more generous than in the 400, Jana again had to be content with making the final, won by Tasmanian Olympic relay aspirant, Melissa Kay (8m), in a time of 23.32.

Both Pittman the athlete, and King the coach, were more than pleased with the opportunity to have had five hard chasing races in a little over 24 hours. Both acknowledged that coming to Tasmania had provided a very successful launching pad in 2003 and that it had been an easy decision to do it again this year.

But it was not all hard toil. Jana entertained the crowd. Allocated the red jacket for every race, she was a formidable opponent, towering over most of the other competitors and displaying the benefits gained from a tough weights and condition programme early in her preparation.

On a couple of occasions, she grabbed the on-field microphone and spoke warmly to the big crowds as if they were her family, but apart from her storming runs from behind, it was probably the knee length rainbow coloured socks she wore in the 200 metres that attracted the most comment and conversation.


29th December

400m – 1. Simon Bresnehan (14m) 46.56; 2. Rowan O’Dell (20m); 3. Mark Nichols (29m)
Mile – 1. Darren Stojanovic (85m) 4.01.42; 2. Alastair Stevenson (20m); 3. David Glover 135m

400m – Trish Holz (33m) 52.08m; 2. Cara White (35m); 3. Katie Nicholson (36m)

30th December

200m – 1. Chris Tuohy (11m) 20.70; 2. Thomas Scott (16m); 3. Stuart Stevenson (19m)
800m – 1. Simon Rintel (30m) 1.50.12; 2. Aaron Jones (20m); 3. Darren Stojanovic (25m)

200m – 1.Melissa Kay (8m) 23.32; 2. Morgan Whiley (8m); 3. Emma Marshall (6m)

800m – 1.Michelle Davis (140m) 1.52.66; 2. Anna Gleeson (155m); 3. Sarah Jane Atkins (140m)

Brain Roe for the IAAF