Steffensen Outraged

Steffensen told to qualify DANIEL LANE
April 11, 2010 - 12:08AM

AN OUTRAGED John Steffensen ;)claims he’s being forced to compete at the Commonwealth Games trials in Perth this week despite having back surgery 12 weeks ago.

Steffensen, the defending Commonwealth Games 400 metres gold medallist, has been granted an exemption, but was warned if three of his rivals ran the A-qualifying time this week it was possible all the individual 400m positions could be filled by the end of the month.

If that happened, the best Steffensen could hope for is to go to New Delhi as a relay runner.

“I applied for exemption three weeks after my back operation,” he said. "Basically the reply I received is I have to race. They’ve [Australian Athletics] pushed me into a code red. There’s no backing here, there’s no sense of ‘you’ve given good service to the sport’; it’s as though they talk as if I’m in my first year of the sport.

"I’m a grown man. These guys don’t pay me, they don’t come to the gym every day to help me, they don’t hold my water bottle, but they want to dictate when they want to pick [the athletes] and when they don’t want to pick. It doesn’t work like that in track and field. It might in cricket, but it doesn’t in track and field.

“They want me to go out and sacrifice my season, sacrifice my body and I don’t know if my sacrifice is going to get me anywhere.”

Hurdler Sally McLellan, pole vaulter Steve Hooker, 400m hurdler Jana Rawlinson and distance runner Craig Mottram have all been granted an exemption from the meeting.

However, Australia’s high performance manager Eric Hollingsworth, who coaches Steffensen’s rival Sean Wroe, insisted Steffensen was not being discriminated against.

“John can have an exemption if he puts in the required paperwork for exemption from injury because of his back,” Hollingsworth said. "His problem is that the selection policy states the selectors can close off the team if they deem the quality of the individuals in the 400m is up to the level required.

“Which means John feels the pressure to compete, not because of me or anyone else, but because of the level of competition in the 400m in Australia. This quandary is not because of discrimination in the system but because of the quality in the 400m.”

Hollingsworth said the reason Rawlinson could perhaps afford to breathe easy and take the exemption was because it was highly unlikely three competitors would run the A-qualifier in Perth.

Unfortunately it seems to be coming to the point in Steffensen’s career that the hammering he has given Aths Australia for several years may be revisited upon himself in the not too distant future.

Hollingsworth is merely stating facts though: It has been four years since John has delivered on his potential, with gold in a very respectable 44.7 at the 2006 Commonwealth Games on home soil in Melbourne.

Now there are several fellow Australians with A-qualifying times: Ben Offereins, Sean Wroe and Joel Milburn. If Milburn, who has shown great form more recently than Steffensen (that being Joel’s 44.80 to reach the semis at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing) can mount the podium at the Australian trials in Perth next weekend, the selectors might close off the individual places there and then.

That would certainly be the case if Milburn can split Offereins and Wroe, who have both run an A-qualifiers this domestic season at the Sydney Track Classic.

However, if any others, such as Games B-qualifiers Clay Watson, should climb the dais in Perth, it is conceivable that the selectors will leave the door open for one or even two individual spots.

But if three guys run the A in Perth and Steffensen is not one of them, I would say he will not be granted an extension of time to mount a defence of his Commonwealth title.

The best thing John could do is to get the national coach “on his side” and show him what he’s got right now, get Eric to attend a training session or two. Show Eric something special even if it is not particularly fast, but perhaps a set of 6x200m all in 23sec or under with 200m jog recovery. If Eric knows his stuff, he would be impressed with a sprinter running a 44-flat specific set like that. And Eric will have the major voice on the selection committee. BUt John needs to act fast if he has something to put in the shop window in the way of fitness. Otherwise he needs to run the Nationals or, if he cannot, then he needs to keep his fingers, toes and eyes crossed that the 400m final in Perth is a flop and selectors feel disinclined to reward three men with an individual berth so far out from an October Games in Delhi.

T & F is joke in the oz, run by clowns.

LOL. Lets just wait and see what happens. They’re not all fools, but I do remember back in 88 Darren Clark and Maree Holland both broke the Aussie 400m records (respectively) and reached the Seoul Olympic finals. But I was told for a fact that one of them (to this day not sure which) was initially left off the Australian team. But the late AA president Graeme Briggs rejected the team on the basis that there were “some omissions” and told the selection committee to “please think again”.

Which they did and both DC and Maree got to the Games and did their best.
But it was the old AA president who saved the day, then again he was a lot more of an “athletics man” than the current president, Fildes, who is just a business man…

From memory 1 of those athletes had to do a time trial 300m at ES Marks field. A tv crew filmed the run and the time was quick (the problem is the athlete left from the 290m mark).
lol, they said no-one was smart enough to realise where they had left from.

I think JS should toss a coin. Heads he doesn’t run and leave it to chance and proves he is the man for the job closer to the CG. Tails he runs and a) runs well and finishes top 3 to warrant selection or b) runs bad and fails to get picked and produces a negative result on his back surgery and puts him further behind the 8 ball.

The last time the Aussie nationals were held in Perth (just about the most remote city on earth) was in 1988. Darren Clark had an injury to a hamstring muscle and was given medical exemption, but took his chances. As it was, Miles Murphy set a national record 44.72 (something like that) and there were some other good guys on the rise then too including Rob Stone and Mark Garner. Stone eventually ran 44.9 and Garner ran 45-flat and was a Tokyo 91 world 400m finalist. There was also Rob Ballard who was never short of effort or self-confidence. So it was a gamble to skip the Nationals in an Olympic year.

As for the Clark 300m time trial, it was his fitness trial to earn belated selection in the 1984 LA Olympic team. Clark was also injured and missed the 1984 Olympic selection trials.

But I understand Clark started his 300m at the right place in lane 5, then entered the curve in lane 3 and came off the curve into the home straight back in lane 5. He smahsed the Commonwealth record and almost also the World 300m record. The clowns at the finish line never knew a thing about it. So they announced Clark had passed his fitness test with flying colours and everyone lived happily in their pompous ignorance ever after. LOL. What a larf it all is…!

My sentiments pre-date this scenario. One peculiar irregularity with AA is that they never retrospectively reflect on poor decisions they have made in the past. Remember the Q men’s 4x100 fiasco in ‘08? What nation doesn’t send a Q 4x100 team in the OG?

How many top coaches have gone overseas now? How many 100 sprinters have retired early? Shirvo at 30, Miller at 25.

Hindsight is always 20-20 but you don’t need the benefit of hindsight with AA. They’re invariably going to stuff up again and again.

When I think of T& F in Oz, it’s a soap opera run by morons, now that’s a toxic cocktail.

PS – JS is much to blame for the soap opera but at least he has some legit selection issues. The other drama queens need a gap order.

What’s a gap order?

Anything like a lobotomy?

Seem to remember in '98, they held Nationals in March, and then a comm games trials in around August in Sydney.
Why hasnt this been done since? Makes the selections much easier - whoever is in form close to the big meet gets selected.

Didnt Capobianco attempt to qualify for 100,200 and 400m and didnt qualify for either?

LOL typo -

“lobotomy” that explains the impaired frontal lobe function around AA ( athletes and adminstrators ) - maybe CF theory on hind brain function was taken to the extreme.

If Offereins, Milburn & Wroe all run good A qualifiers - who could seriously argue leaving one of them out? And who is going to tell ‘him’ - “Sorry but even though you just ran 2nd in the Australian title and ran 45.2 for another A qualifier, we’re waiting on a broken down Steffo to come good, so you will have to miss out.”

Steffenson has only himself to blame for his predicament. He needs to stop blaming everyone else, get his paperwork in and prove his fitness.

I’m not a big Eric H fan by any stretch, but he is 100% correct that the quality & depth of the 400m is Steff’s problem, not a problem caused by AA.

I don’t think AA has missed the mark on this. There have been other times when they have selected three in the 400m at nationals when there were others hovering around the A qualifier - and I believe JS was one of those selected - and no one batted an eyelid.

However I don’t think there is a huge predicament here. If the rules are anything like the IAAF selection criteria for the WC’s or OG’s AA will be able to submit a team of 4 individual 400m runners and notify the organisers who will actually be running as late as 10 days before the championships. Chances are, whoever gets dropped will be on the relay team anyway so no additional travel or funding costs will be incurred.

[QUOTE=los;233615]Seem to remember in '98, they held Nationals in March, and then a comm games trials in around August in Sydney.
Why hasnt this been done since? Makes the selections much easier - whoever is in form close to the big meet gets selected.

Way it still should be, imagine Melbourne getting a free shot at the ARL grand final just because they won the World Cup last time.

And JS is a great person, there are no more free rides, if things are happening because of training question your coach, if happening because of elsewhere ask questions there.

The fastest on the day gets the spoils.

are the Aust track and field titles televised on free to air or fox. would love to see them.

The sentiments in the article are a lot harder the what JS expressed in the interview on Fox Sports I saw where although disappointed he seemed more this is unfair but oh well. Sharmer was that you running with him in that clip?


I totally agree. From my experience in 1998 and 2000 Nationals were held as usual in Feb or March and a trials were held 6 weeks from the games. People who performed closer to the games were not always the same people 6mths earlier. It worked well. Those who performed near the games showed they were in shape when needed not what form they were in 6mths ago or what they had done as a qualifying time 12mths ago.

I have mentioned this to many within the realm of AA only to have them quote that it never works. What? Does it mean you have to organise another meet? Yes it may cost some $$$ but isn’t the main emphasis to have a team which performs well? Either we choose small teams of 8 to 10 where they finish all top 8 (100%) which equals more federal funding or choose 50 athletes with only 20% which doesn’t look as good (Same 8 to 10 finish in top 8).

Either have all qualifying marks as IAAF standards or make the same AA standard but across the whole range of events.

I read a reoport some months back in which head coach Hollingsworth said no Aussies would be touring Europe this year. That they would have to basically prepare in Australia and then go to the Games in Delhi. If that report was accurate, then it makes even more sense to hold trials - perhaps in Darwin or Townsville in the tropical north - around August.
And the top athletes, who make a living on the tour in Europe, can either take their chances by not returning for the Trials, or be pre-selected because they’ve earned it with current performances - people like the Aussie world champs medallists (outdoor and indoor)

This is the second time I have heard of top coaches going overseas. Paul Hallam national sprint/relay coach, Penny Gillies national relay/hurdles/sprint coach. When did they go.

A precidence has been set, part of email from Gerard Coogan now deceased. This kid at 14/11.7-100m, a pic of her running is in my album.

>> There is going to be a giant pull for Olivia from various quarters.
>> Newcastle AS, NSWIS and the AIS are all vying to ‘own’ her.
>> My own reaction is that at the age of ‘13-14’ she should remain in a Home
>> based program with mentoring for her coach from Senior NSWIS or AIS
> coaches.”

I passed her onto a Warren Medcalf former NT Institute head coach. She ended up with Paul Hallam, says he first saw her at an Olympic Youth Festival, reality is she started to beat his stepdaughter as they were in the same age group. She is now with Penny Gillies, who cares.

Keep an eye on Dylan Bennett, soon to be 13-14, My wife was his jump coach and I was his sprint coach, another one we passed on to Warren, currently member of the NSW LA’s team to compete at their Nationals. He has already been picked up by Max Debman (Newcastle AS).

Where are our short sprinters, we have some good 400m runners, one is JS, several of the others have coaches who are receiving help from Mike Hurst, help is the key word, at least he is not out to “own them”.

I was frustated back in 2003,4,5,6 just like you are now, I had to get over it.

One HD has the rights to athletics in Australia. So I guess they will show the championships down the track in an hour highlight package.