Mottram Magic in Melbourne
9 March 2006 | 11.41pm
By David Tarbotton
Asafa Powell was the headline act at Melbourne Olympic Park, but it was Melbourne’s Craig Mottram who left fans with the most indelible memory at the Telstra A-series tonight.
In a night that demonstrated the strength of the opposition at the Commonwealth Games, Benita Johnson was left perplexed after a last lap fade-out and Jana Pittman withdrew prior to the 400m hurdles, not wanting to risk a tight hamstring just a week before the Games.
Craig Mottram returned from his Ballarat training base for his final race before the Games, a specially requested 2000m in which he had his eyes firmly focused on the 1994 Australian record of Simon Doyle 5:00.84
After going through the mile in 3:57 he produced a stunning last lap to stop the clock at 4:50.76 to bring the crowd to its feet.
His time a new Australian and Oceania record and the eighth fastest time in history.
“Its fantastic I thought I was a chance I could run 4:50 and with 20 metres to go I thought I was a chance to sneak under there.” His preparation for the games looked well on track. “I have been in Ballarat training hard and haven’t backed off that much so it’s even more surprising.”
The World’s fastest human, Asafa Powell, exploded out of the blocks, then coasted to victory in the men’s 100m. There was unsteadiness and a break before the race got away.
Racing in his first 100m for seven months Powell looked superb, bursting to the lead and then coasting to the line to record 10.29 second into a -1.2 mps headwind
“I’m Feeling good right now, I was quite nervous, I haven’t been on the track for almost a year now,” Powell said.
On the first attempt, Canada’s Pierre Brown was disadvantaged when his blocks slipped with Powell demonstrating what might be possible at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 10 days time producing an amazing start that had him more than a metre clear when the field received the recall gun.
“If I had got that start in Athens I would have run 9.6”," Powell said, only half joking.
Earlier in the evening, in his first ever appearance on Australian soil, Powell was the difference between the Australian and Jamaican 4x100m relay teams. Australia were off to a solid start with Daniel Batman, but a sensational back straight run by national 100m champion, Joshua Ross, blew the race apart with Australia taking a three metre lead. But on the final leg, Powell was too hot to handle as he stormed home, taking the win for Jamaica in a time of 38.72. Australia was second in 39.11 just ahead of their trans-Tasman rivals, New Zealand. The race was a good Commonwealth Games preview with England fourth, Canada fifth and Ghana sixth. Jamaica’s team of Michael Frater, Ainsley Waugh, Winton Smith and Asafa Powell, look favourites with England for the Commonwealth title.
Brisbane long jumper, Brownyn Thompson returned to her favourite venue, where four years ago she raised the Australian and Commonwealth records to 7.00m. Tonight she was nearly as impressive with two 6.91m jumps in a series which stamped her as favourite for the Commonwealth title. In second was Canberra’s Kerrie Taurima who leapt a wind assisted 6.74m and legal 6.66m. Jade Johnson from England was third with 6.49m
Dual Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Nathan Deakes finished his preparations for next week’s Games in the best possible way, with an Australian record in the men’s 5000m walk. Clocking 18:45.19, he lowered the previous Australian record set over 20 years ago by David Smith. In second, was Australia’s Commonwealth Games representative, Luke Adams, who clocked 19:01.19, recording the third fastest time in Australian history. For his efforts he was rewarded $1500 in bonus money.
The shocks began early in the evening with England’s Natasha Danvers-Smith claiming the women’s 400m hurdles in 55.92, however the race lost much of its glamour when leading stars, defending Commonwealth Games champion, Jana Pittman and England’s Nicola Sanders not facing the starter’s gun.
“When we arrived Nicola had withdrawn, so it was not worth the risk. She (Jana) wanted to run, but I told her she couldn’t. Sometimes you need someone with age and experience to make the decisions,” said fiancé and reigning Commonwealth 400m hurdles champion, Chris Rawlinson.
In the women’s 3000m, there was an upset win by Hobart’s Donna MacFarlane. As the field, led by Eloise Wellings, entered the straight the inconspicuous MacFarlane strode to the lead and was never headed as she clocked the sixth fastest time in Australian history with 8:50.65. Wellings placed second with Australia’s 10,000m Commonwealth Games representative Benita Johnson a disappointing seventh. For MacFarlane, the performance was further progress on her already outstanding season and arguers well for her Commonwealth Games hopes in the 3000m Steeplechase.
“I can’t believe it – nearly a 30 second pb. I’ll prepare by going back home to Hobart, then return for the Games. My two kids will stay at home and watch me on TV.”
Benita Johnson was looking ahead after a below par result. “It is definitely a setback, I’m disappointed. I just have to put it behind me and focus on the 10,000metres in the Games.”
As the field approached the eighth flight in the men’s 400m hurdles race, a line of five athletes were across the track, but favourite Kemel Thompson sprinted away from the field to win in a time of 48.59. In fourth was Australia’s Commonwealth Games representative, Brendan Cole, who lowered his best to 49.83. Rawlinson will struggle to defend his title, finishing 7th in 50.35 after battling with a groin.
The closest race of the night was in the men’s 200m, with AIS’s Daniel Batman leading the race until the last metre, where Nigerian Uchenna Emedolou out dipped the Australian to win in 20.63 to Batman’s 20.64.
In the women’s 4x100m relay the Australian team of Sally McLellan, Melanie Kleeberg, Lauren Hewitt and Crystal Attenborough produced a slick time of 44.04, to comfortably win from 2002 Commonwealth Games bronze medallists, England. It was also the fastest time by an Australian team since their fourth place performance in Manchester, nearly four years ago.
With just two vaults, Perth’s inform women’s pole vaulter, Kym Howe claimed the event, with first up clearances of 4.30m and 4.50m. Howe attempted to raise her recent Commonwealth record, with three vaults at 4.62m. Tatiana Grigorieva vaulted well up to 4.30m, before bowing out at 4.40m.
Canada’s Chantal Petitclerc gained a psychological advantage over her Aussie Commonwealth Games rival, Eliza Stankovic. In the Games they will race over 800m, but tonight, Petitclerc defeated Stankovic by over a second.
Perth Teenager, Ellen Pettitt, raised her personal best in the high jump with a second attempt clearance at 1.91m. Pettitt defeated Games favourite, Canadian Nicole Forrester, who lead the Commonwealth rankings in 2005 with a leap of 1.94m.
AIS jumper, Tim Parravicini returned to his eight metre from of last season with an 8.07m leap and win in the men’s long jump. Parravicini recorded his best of 8.18m in February 2005, but this best form had deserted him this season until tonight, when he defeated England’s 8.14m jumper, Greg Rutherford in the last round, just sneaking past Rutherford’s 8.06m.
England’s Christine Ohuruogu, a strong medal hope at the Commonwealth Games, clocked a superb 51.21 in the 400m, just outside her 2005 best of 51.21, which ranked her third in the Commonwealth, Tamsyn Lewis was third in 52.50.
The men’s 400m was a close battle to the line with Nigeria’s Godday James edging World Championships semi-finalist Ato Modibo and Australia’s Clinton Hill. In fourth was 2001 World Champion Avard Moncur.
In the women’s hammer throw Brooke Kreuger-Billet continued her good form, with a winning effort of 68.61m, New Zealand’s Valerie Vili was impressive winning with 19.13m, and South Africa’s Hopley Hannies took the discus with 61.13m ahead of Benn Harradine (59.76) and Scott Martin third (59.61)
Athletes now return to their home states for final preparation for the Games. The majority of the Australian team will assemble in Melbourne the day before the opening ceremony, prior to a team dinner for athletics supporters that will coincide with the announcement of team captains on Friday 17 March.
The athletics competition at the Games begins on Sunday 19 March.
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