ATHLETICS: It certainly has been a momentous weekend of international performances by the Australian Athletics Team at three competitions in Monaco, London and Heusden in Belgium.
Competing at the very highest level in the sport outside of championships, 13 Aussies performed with distinction at two Diamond Leagues – achieving two Australian records and a string of world class performances. It started in Monaco and spread like fever across the English channel.
The weekend kicked off on a high in Monaco on Friday night when 20-year-old Sudanese-born Joseph Deng broke the near 50-year-old national 800m record in a time of 1.44.21 at the Herculis Diamond League
His performance, which was also a new Oceania record, took 0.19s off the record which was set by Ralph Doubell in 1968 at the Mexico City Olympic Games and then equalled by Alex Rowe in Monaco in 2014.
“It’s a great feeling. My target coming into the race wasn’t the record, it was just to run fast,” Deng said.
"I knew it was going to be a fast race. Justin (coach) said to stick in the top five, top six position and see what happens.
"This is my last race of the season, so I'm done now. I'm back in Australia next week."
Across the English Channel at the unique two-day London Olympic Games legacy meet, the Anniversary Games, 11 Aussies took advantage of the last major competition ahead of a pause in competition due to the upcoming European Championships.
Continuing her best season ever, Linden Hall took down the national mile record in a time of 4:21.40, shaving off 1.26 from the old mark.
“So happy to knock off the record today. Once we heard it was going to be a mile in London we decided to target it in the hope of breaking the record,” Hall said.
“I couldn’t help but be inspired by Joe Deng on Friday and all the other Aussies who’ve had great runs in Monaco, Heusden and here in London.”
Last year, in this race, she ran 4:23.96, 1.3 seconds outside Lisa Corrigan’s 11-year-old record of 4:22.66. The record was considered equal to about 4:03.3 for 1500m, a time Hall has bettered twice this year. Hall ran splits of 64.9, 65.4, 66.0, steaming home in 65.1. She passed 1500m at 4:04.2, requiring some hard work to make up time over the last 100m, timed at 17.2 to claim the record.
The London Stadium, used for the 2012 Olympic Games and 2017 World Championships, was a happy hunting ground for Aussies.
Brooke Stratton finished third in the Diamond League with her fourth-round leap of 6.76m and a consistent series of four jumps over 6.60m.
“I’m pretty happy but I would have liked to jump a bit further but with 6.76m I cannot complain at all,” Stratton said. “Hopefully I’ll have enough points for the Diamond League finals.”
Pole vaulter Kurtis Marschall required two attempts at 5.46m and 5.61m, and three at 5.71m. But when attempting an equal PB of 5.80m, he was over on his second vault, securing fourth place, one ahead of former world champion, Shawnacy Barker (CAN).
In the men’s long jump, Commonwealth Games silver medallist, Henry Frayne continued his best and most consistent season of his career. He placed fourth with just two valid jumps of 8.04m and 8.24m – his eighth consecutive competition over eight metres, the fourth longest leap of his career and longest outside of Australia. He comfortably qualified for the Diamond League final which will be held in five weeks.
In a very tactical non-Diamond League men’s 1500m, the only athlete who could beat Australian record holder Ryan Gregson was Olympic champion America’s Matt Centrowitz, with Gregson finishing in second at 3:35.35 behind the American at 3:35.22.
In javelin, dual Commonwealth Games medallist, Kelsey Barber achieved a throw of 61.58m closing with 63.90m then 64.11m to place third. It was her first Diamond League podium finish of the year. Unfortunately, on points she missed qualification for the Diamond League final on countback.
In the women’s 800m Brittany McGowan continued her best season yet in the event, crossing the line in fifth – in her second fastest ever time of 2:00.60.
Commonwealth Games representative and long distance runner, Stewart McSweyn placed 12th in the 5000m at 13:20.21. Patrick Tiernan came in behind at 16th with a time of 13:24.58.
National steeplechase record holder, Gen LaCaze continued her return to form with 10th in the 3000m in 8:50.09 – just 0.07 second slower than her new personal best set a week ago in Cork.