International track and field comes to Melbourne again

Track and field has achieved a remarkable feat during the summer months – it has been even more invisible than usual, left in the wake of the Asia Cup and the ICC World Cup.  However, the season has been running (weak pun intended) and it’s now time for the highlight, the IAAF Melbourne World Challenge, to be held this Saturday. (It should be noted that the lower key national championships will be held the following weekend in Brisbane).  The Melbourne event’s international status means that it again hosts an impressive array of international and domestic talent.


This is an important time for track and field in Australia.  Off the track it is in a mess, exemplified by the shambolic Hollingsworth/Pearson conflict during last year’s Commonwealth Games.  At a time when track and field should have been enjoying a rare time in the spotlight, it did, but for all the wrong reasons.  Attracting less attention, but equally significant, was the earlier decision by Little Athletics Australia to not merge with Athletics Australia, apparently on the grounds of not wanting to become part of the AA dysfunctional circus.  Understandable logic, but track and field has the lowest conversion rate from juniors to seniors of any sport, and united action and direction is critical.


Meanwhile, on the track (and field) , things are actually looking quite good.  Sally Pearson (100m hurdles) is still a force, Kim Mickle (javelin)  is now a regular international medallist, Dani Samuels (discuss) is returning to the form that saw her win a world championships gold and Mitchell Watt (long jump) may again be a factor after recovering from injury.  There are also great hopes for the brigade that has got a decent foothold in international competition in recent years, including Steve Solomon (400m), Alex Rowe (800m), Zoe Buckman (1500m) and Henry Frayne (long jump and triple jump).  I would like to add Ryan Gregson (1500m), to that list, but he has had a couple of average years, after earlier showing enormous middle-distance talent.  His recent form provides some hope that he can realise his potential.


The even younger brigade has raised even more hope, and in the case of teen sprinting sensation Jack Hale, a lot of hype.  The kid is very good, but the sprints have been dominated for many years by the African-Americans and it is very hard to make an impact on the international stage.  His best hopes may lie in the long jump, which is not particularly strong at the moment.  The other young hopes exciting interest include high jumper Eleanor Patterson, who at 18 is the Commonwealth Games gold medallist as well as the world youth joint record holder, 17 year-old pole vaulter Nina Kennedy who broke the world youth record in Perth a few weeks ago with a height that would have won last year’s Comm Games and high jumper Brandon Starc.  Starc is the younger brother of cricketer Mitchell and both have enjoyed very productive summers, Brandon recording a PB in Sydney last weekend.


The star attractions in Melbourne are the Kenyan David Rudisha (800m) and the Queen of the Australian track, Sally Pearson (100m hurdles).  Both enjoyed a period of world dominance in their events before coming back to the field through injury and the emergence of new stars. Pearson was untouchable over the sprint hurdles in 2011 and 2012, but was conquered by a combination of injury and the young American star Brianna Rollins in 2013 at the Moscow world champs before overcoming injury and distraction to win gold in an average field at the 2014 Comm Games.   She is in good sprinting form (ignore last weekend’s run over the unsuitable 200m) and is always worth the price of admission.  Rudisha is a Rolls-Royce and a privilege to watch glide around the track.  He took both the gold medal and the world record home from the 2012 London Olympic Games, but struggled with injury last season and looked positively mortal.  Part of the reason for his presence is to hopefully push Alex Rowe towards a new national record –Rowe equalled Ralph Doubell’s 1968 Mexico Olympic Games record last year and it would be great if he could do it in front of a home crowd.  Rudisha looked in very good shape in Sydney last weekend, leaving Rowe in his wake and this event shapes as the highlight of the program.

The other highlights include:

  • the women’s pole vault, where Comm Games gold medallist Alana Boyd and the Parnov sisters, Liz and Vicky are joined by wunderkind Nina Kennedy and American Melissa Gergel
  • the women’s javelin, where our own talented duo of Kim Mickle and Kathryn Mitchell meet some serious international competition
  • the men’s long jump, an event in which we have considerable depth, even with Mitch Watt absent.  Henry Frayne, Robbie Crowther and Fabrice Lapierre are all 8 metre plus jumpers.
  • The women’s 1500 metres, which features Aussies Zoe Buckman, Kaila McKnight, Kelly Hetherington and Genevieve La Caze as well as some international talent.

So, get along to Lakeside Stadium on Saturday.  It’s a 5.00 –7.30pm program timeslot with favourable weather forecast.  It will be $20 (pre-purchased ticket price) well spent.  If you are not in Melbourne or can’t get there, you can watch it on live stream on the AA website or on youtube (see ).


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Thanks Steve, would love to be there but will try to catch it on youtube. An event like this really should be on free to air tv. Following Jack Hale with much interest.

  2. Paul Young says

    Great write up Steve. Can’t be there but will definitely watch it via the live feed. Looking forward to seeing Rudisha again after he demoralised them last week in Sydney.

    Interesting to see Tamsyn Manou (post baby) in the women’s 400m field. The standard of women’s 400m running has dropped away since Tamsyn ceased running at the national level. Hopefully some quick times can be pushed out…..

  3. Steve Fahey says

    Agree with you Luke, but given Channel 9’s coverage/non-coverage of World Cup games not featuring Australia, the future is quite bleak for sport on free to air.

    Paul, yes, Tamsyn is a very interesting competitor. Always a polarising figure because of her strong views and sometimes feisty and attention-attracting behaviour, I am a fan. Anyone who can show the passion and talent she did over a long period, as well as her flexibility in switching between the 400m and the 800m, deserves great credit. World Indoor gold medals are not won easily, and neither are 3 Comm Games relay gold medals and 17 national championships.

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