Leave your team and get to the track!


by Steve Fahey

Don’t go to the footy or cricket this weekend !!!

Yes, you read right.  This lifelong sports nut is exhorting you to not attend the footy or cricket this weekend in Melbourne.  Why ?  Because I am suggesting that you insteadattend the Olympic track and field team trials at Lakeside Stadium Albert Park on Friday and Saturday nights.

Question – how many people would show up if Usain Bolt was running in Melbourne this weekend ? Bolt was the 2011 IAAF Male Athlete of the Year, and while we don’t have him competing this weekend, we do have his female counterpart, our own Sally Pearson, the 2011 IAAF Female Athlete of the Year.  We are spoilt in that we get to see her in Melbourne every year because she is a great supporter of the domestic tour. I love her as an athlete because, in addition to having enormous talent, she is a fantastic competitor, as hungry for the contest as they come.  I also love her unrestrained enthusiasm and exuberance, a humble exuberance that John Steffenson would do well to observe.  I also find it refreshing, in this age of sportspeople having a seemingly never ending stream of partners who are models or “celebrities”, that her husband is a plumber.

If you haven’t see her run live, take this opportunity, because with a dose of luck by the end of the year she will add an Olympic gold medal to her World Championship gold and Olympic silver. (The dose of luck will be needed because the sprint hurdles have a recent history of the favourite fouling up the final – refer Gail Devers and the delightfully named Lo Lo Jones).  Highlighting her love of the contest Pearson is entered for three events over this weekend, the 100 and 200 metres as well as her pet 100 metres hurdles event.

Pearson is the star, but by no means the only attraction.  Both nights offer highlights.  My view of the best on offer is :

Friday night

Men’s 1500 metres – always the blue ribbon event in my biased eyes, and a cracking field on offer.  We have two young Australians who are legitimate chances of making the Olympic final, a rare occurrence, and Ryan Gregson and Jeff Riseley will continue their rivalry at Lakeside.  They are joined by a couple of Kenyans, another rising star in Jordan Williamsz (yes, with a z !) and Mark Blicavs, who was recently AFL rookie listed by Geelong.

Women’s 800 metres – the old guard, Tamsyn Manou (formerly Lewis) is in the last year of her stellar career and on recent form has been surpassed by the new force, Kelly Hetherington. They have had some great clashes already this season, and I don’t think that Tamsyn will let Kelly dictate the pace this time.

Women’s 100 metres – first chance to see Pearson, who will have little real competition.

Saturday night

Men’s 800 metres – For the third year in a row, we are privileged to have the world champion and world record holder, Kenyan David Rudisha, who is a Rolls Royce.  Aths Australia have put a quality field around him, including American Nick Symonds. Jeff Riseley is also entered for this event, but I’m not sure that he will back up from the 1500.

Men’s 400 metres –Australia will have a medal chance in London in the relay, with Steffenson,young gun Steve Solomon, Ben Offereins, Sean Wroe and Kevin Moore all competing for spots in both the individual event and the A-team for the relay.

Women’s 100 metre hurdles and 200 metres – Pearson first and evening light second (now there’s a saying that doesn’t work when altered!)

Men’s long jump – Australia has extraordinary depth in this event at present, and even without World Championships silver medallist Mitchell Watt, this event still boasts four highly talented jumpers with the potential to exceed 8 metres given the right conditions.  Fabrice Lapierre, RobbieCrowther, the multi-talented Henry Frayne (who will win the triple jump) and Chris Noffke, as well as a talented Frenchman, Frederick Erin.

Women’s pole vault – Alana Boydset a new national record last weekend, continuing a rich vein of form.  She will win here, with the precociously talented Parniv sisters filling the placings. Quality pole vaulting is always one of the highlights of live track andfield.

Men’s 5000 metres –   The last event of the program should be a cracker, with competition hot for both ranking in the Australian order and qualifying times. Collis Birmingham, Ben St Lawrence, Buster Mottram and David McNeill are the main local contenders, and are joined  by a string of quality international athletes, including another member of the famous Kipchopge clan from Kenya.

All this is on offer for less than $20 for a ticket for each night.  The Saturday night will be a real test forthe newish venue. If you are going, be aware that there is no reserved seating,it is all general admission, which means that you should get there early.  Friday night starts at 5.30, Saturday night at 6.45.

Bring it on, and read the cricket and footy scores in the paper the next day and/or set your video recorders


  1. Steve, I have already taken a shine to Jordan Williamsz. Anybody who has a surname ending in “z” is okay in my book.

  2. Andrew Fithall says

    Thanks for the heads-up Steve. I reckon that the boy Steffenson could go far if only he could overcome his shyness and develop a bit of self-belief.

  3. Steve – it should be a great meeting.

    I agree with you 100% about Steffenson. He won a 400 metre event the other night in a B grade time and carried on like a complete arse spanker (pretty sure that’s a Litza description). When he got completely smashed at Stawell two years back he showed his fellow competitors absolutely no respect by making out that he didn’t care anyway. He won no friends under the old grand stand that day.

  4. pamela sherpa says

    Sounds like a great night of Aths. I hope the weather is o.k for it.

  5. Andrew Weiss says

    Steve , with the Olympics just around the corner and the possibility of Australia sending its best athletics team for a long time is there a chance that Australia will win more gold medals in the track and field then in the pool and if this does happen how many Olympics has it been since that has occurred?

  6. Steve Fahey says

    Sadly I don’t think so Andrew.

    Realistically, at this stage we have only two genuine gold medal contenders, Pearson and Watt. Hooker has lost form and confidence at the wrong time and Pitman is perennially injured and has been out of it for too long now to be confident that she is still in the top league.

    We do have decent depth and some excellent young talent but winning medals in international competition is exponentially harder in track and field than in swimming. I hope to live to see an Australian man or woman win a medal in an Olympic 1500 metres – Herb Elliott in Rome was 2 years before I was born !!

    Looking forward to some high-class competition tonight after last night’s taster – great performances by Frayne and Cole, as well as more victories for the stalwarts Pearson and Manou. Unfortunately conditions are again unlikely to be favourable.

  7. Steve Fahey says

    Whoops ! Omitted to add another excellent win in the 1500 metres by Ryan Gregson, who just might be the one to fulfil my dream, but much more likely in Rio than in London

  8. Sounds like a great night. Unfortunately work commitments prevented me from making the trek up from Geelong. Still can’t quite get my mind around this not being at Olympic park. Have walked past the sorry carcass a couple of times in the last few months on the way to Heart games. Almost made me weep.
    On a happier note, interesting observation by michael Gleeson in Greg Baum’s article on the back of today’s age sport, that aths is one of the “few sports in which women are truly treated by men as equals and peers”. Spot on.
    Reckon I’ll celebrate with you when your 1500 dream is realised. For a few self deluded years in the late 80s, I even thought I’d be a chance myself. Then I realised, Geelong is an awfully small pond in the big wide world of track & field.

  9. Steve Fahey says

    The second night was an excellent night of athletics held in front of a smallish crowd after a miserable Melbourne day, albeit that the evening wasn’t too bad (at least relatively).

    Pearson’s 12.49 was the undoubted highlight of the evening and showed that she has elevated herself from being in a small pack at the top of her event to being clearly the best in the world. She won by a flight of hurdles, and both an Olympic gold medal and the world record (currently 12..22) could be hers by the end of 2012.

    Buster Mottram’s return to form was the other highlight, turning back the clock with a devastating last lap to leave the gallant Collis Birmingham in his wake in the 5000 and qualifying for his fourth Olympics in doing so. Henry Frayne showed his outrageous talent by adding the long jump title to the triple jump the night before in what was a foul-riddled competition, Frayne landed two legitimate jumps out of six, while Robbie Crowther finished third with his sole legitimate jump, and a couple of his fouls were huge jumps. Fabrice Lapierre split them with an even 8 metres.

    Other highlights were David Rudisha being David Rudisha in the 800, in the meantime dragging Jeff Risleley to a painful 0.02 outside an A-qualiifier, a strong win by the very shy John Steffenson in the 400, a last stride win by Kaila McKnight in the 1500 metres over an unlucky Zoe Buckman, and a quick 200 metres by the star Pearson.

    As for the stadium ? It’s a very good track but it’s hard to love the stadium – there is no reserved seating, which in a stadium with very limited undercover seating is a real issue, as indeed is the paucity of undercover seating. I was coming from junior sport in Geelong and simply couldn’t get there early and bought my ticket months ago and was frustrated by not being able to reserve a seat. The food options are the usual crap and the lack of parking around Albert Park because of the upcoming Vroom Vroom was frustrating. Given that the first weekend of March is the usual timing of Melbourne’s premier athletics event, this is likely to be an ongoing problem.

    It won’t stop me going as I love athletics, but my perception that athletics has been dudded by the move from O Park has not changed. Michael Gleeson’s article in today’s Age is a good discussion of these issues.

    Roll on London, and to a much lesser extent the national titles in April.

  10. John Butler says

    Steve, with Bernie Ecclestone’s call to make it a night race you may not have to worry about the vroom vrooms too much longer.


  11. whatever says

    “the old guard, Tamsyn Manou (formerly Lewis) is in the last year of her stellar career…”

    You’re kidding me right? Stellar? Veronica Campbell-Brown’s career is stellar. Athletics is not confined to what you do in Australia, competing against Australia’s mostly mediocre athletes.

  12. Steve Fahey says

    I’d be quite happy with 17 national titles, 3 Comm Games gold medals and an individual world indoors gold medal when I hung up my spikes.

    You might note that I didn’t state a stellar international career, notwithstanding the indoors world champs and Comm Games medals, but I reckon we are quick to knock those such as Tamsyn who stay in the sport for a long period and hold the top rank in their country in their events for long periods. We ought be celebrating them, as it’s a tough sport on the international stage e.g. 15 countries won swimming medals in Sydney 2000, 44 countries won track and field medals.

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