Steffensen's back

FEW things can silence Australian athletics’ most outspoken personality John Steffensen.

Injury came close.

The West Australian sprinter admitted a pinched nerve in his back for years had him running in agony before threatening to derail his 2009 world titles campaign, where simply warming up caused severe leg cramp.

It was the same ailment which dogged the talented athlete with hamstring injuries since 2007.

“Hell yeah - I almost pulled out of the world championships,” Steffensen said, when asked if running at worlds was painful.

"But it’s part of the game, it’s part of the sport, I don’t want accolades for it.

"I called my dad and I was like, I’m going home, I can’t run again.

“I was sick and tired of people saying I come to meets and I don’t run well. I couldn’t be bothered going through all that again.”

Steffensen may not want accolades but fighting through pain to snare Australia’s first world relay medal in Berlin’s 4x400m alongside fellow West Australian Ben Offereins, Tristan Thomas and Sean Wroe, demands praise.

The livewire track star went under the knife in January when surgeons shaved away part of a bone in his back that was bumping a nerve when running at top speed.

Perth’s national titles and Commonwealth Games selection trials next month will be Steffensen’s first competitive run back.

The 2006 Commonwealth Games 400m champion faces an uphill selection battle with Australia’s one-lap contingent posting strong results during the domestic season, including the world’s top two times for the year from Offereins.

But a confident Steffensen said his plans did not rest in Perth and suggested his title-defence hinged on discretionary selection through international results.

“It’s racing, you get out there and you give it a shot,” Steffensen said. "The thing is, I’ve been doing this running thing a long time.

"It’s one thing running quick, it’s another thing knowing how to race and I reckon I’ll be okay.

"The plan is to run well when it counts and when it counts in the track and field game is to go to Europe and be competitive against the world.

“What (the Australian selectors) are saying is to get a top three finish (at the trials) … but there’s no line drawn in the sand.”