Sally's British heritage

Monday, 23 February 2009 Loyal McLellan, Britain’s loss, prepares for Sydney

Sydney, Australia - She shocked Australians in Beijing when she won Olympic silver in the 100m Hurdles and just ahead of her first race in Sydney since the Games, the Track Classic at Homebush this Saturday, 28 February, Sally McLellan yesterday produced another surprise - that medal could have been Britain’s.

The Sydney Track Classic is one of a select group of Area meetings at which points can be acquired by athletes to qualify for the IAAF / VTB Bank World Athletics Final, to be held on 12-13 September in Thessaloniki, Greece.

McLellan revealed that as a child she held a British passport because her mother, Anne, is English. And that means McLellan could have run for Britain, although she said at the weekend she would never turn her back on Australia.

“No matter how much money they offered me, if they offered me, I couldn’t do it. I’d feel like a traitor,’’ said McLellan.

But she revealed she may apply for a new British passport this year.

“I have had an English passport before when I was five or something but I don’t have one at the moment,” McLellan said. “I’m thinking about getting another one just simply because of getting around Europe and going through all the passport controls, it’s a lot easier if you have a British passport.”

Although McLellan was born in Sydney, her mother Anne was born in Kent, England and hence she was eligible to compete for Britain.

“I’ve never been asked that question before, but, no, I’d never run for England. I’m Australian and always will be,” McLellan added. “My mum’s lived here more than she’s lived in England so she’s Australian too really, so yeah, I’d never run for England.”

“I’m Australian. I’m happy with how I run for Australia. I’m proud to be an Australian and I don’t have any trouble getting into teams so I might as well keep running for Australia.”

A spokesman for UK Athletics, the governing body for British track and field, said: “It’s always great to know that British genes are proving themselves good enough to mount the Olympic podium, be they competing for Great Britain or not.”

“Sally’s achievement in winning an Olympic medal in the highly competitive athletics stadium was highly commendable.”

“Of course, from our point of view, it is a pity she did not do so wearing the red, white and blue and so improve our athletics medal haul of four from Beijing. Nonetheless, we are working hard with the considerable talent at our disposal to make sure we have an even healthier British presence on the athletics podium on home turf at London 2012.”

Attempting 100m flat and hurdles double in Homebush

Already in sensational form having broken the Australian indoor 60m flat sprint and Hurdles record on a short tour of the US this month, McLellan’s next competition will be at Track Classic on Saturday.

“I’ll be running the 100m Hurdles and also the 100m sprint,” McLellan said, adding she is excited about racing Jamaica’s reigning Commonwealth champion and 2005 World championship bronze medallist Brigitte Foster-Hylton and America’s two-time World championships representative Jenny Adams over the hurdles.

National record under threat

In the sprint, former national champion McLellan will compete against Canberra’s Melissa Breen, 18, fresh out of high school with a time off 11.33sec. This had been the fastest 100m time in Australia this summer until Saturday when McLellan clocked wind-legal times of 11.26 (+1.9m/s) and then 11.35 (+1.0) to win the Queensland state championship.

“One of us will break the Australian record come the national titles,” McLellan predicted. She has a personal best of 11.14 run in the heats of the 2007 World championships in Osaka. And her Brisbane effort is just outside the 11.21 by Melinda Gainsford-Taylor in 1998, also in Brisbane, which is the fastest ever run by an Australian at home. Gainsford-Taylor set the national record of 11.12 at Sestriere in the Italian Alps in July 1994.

In the nation’s capital, Canberra, Breen returned to competition after a brief training block to win the ACT State championship in 11.47 easing up.

Breen and McLellan will be joined in the 100m by visiting American Brianna Glenn, who has a best time of 11.10. She recently won in Belfast over 60m indoors in 7.31 which compares favourably against McLellan’s record of 7.30 run in Boston.

Breen’s coach Matt Beckenham, an Olympic 400m Hurdles representative, said Melissa was nervously waiting to race McLellan but that “this was something she will have to learn to deal with”.

“There has been a build-up now for a long time, and it will be good when it’s done,” Breen said yesterday. “I’m nervous because I haven’t raced against her (McLellan) in ages.”

“There are expectations from both sides – she’s come back as a silver medallist in Beijing, and I’ve run a fast time, so we both had really good seasons. It’s a matter of seeing what happens on the day.

“I’ve been training really well so it’s just a matter of putting the training into races now. I’ve had some amazing times in training, but I haven’t been able to make it count in races – in time I’m sure that will happen.”

McLellan is building up to compete at the next World championships in Berlin (15-23 August) where she plans to run only the hurdles as well as the 4x100m relay if Australia picks a team.

International flavour

The Sydney Track Classic boasts an array of talent including Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, America’s Xavier “X-Man” Carter, Russia’s Olympic Pole Vault silver medallist Yevgeniy Lukyanenko and the man who beat him in Beijing, Australia’s Steve Hooker fresh off a five-meet winning sequence including three competition clearances of 6m, one being an Australian record of 6.06m.

Mike Hurst (Sydney Daily Telegraph) for the IAAF