Home A Column By Len Johnson

A Column By Len Johnson

Len Johnson wrote for The Melbourne Age as an athletics writer for over 20 years, covering five Olympics, 10 world championships and five Commonwealth Games.

He has been the long-time lead columnist on RT and is one of the world’s most respected athletic writers.

He is also a former national class distance runner (2.19.32 marathon) and trained with Chris Wardlaw and Robert de Castella among other running legends. He is the author of The Landy Era.

No-one can say they didn’t see it coming. Stewart McSweyn had already made close approaches to Ryan Gregson’s national record for 1500 metres in Stockholm and Zagreb before he tore a chunk off it the Doha Diamond League meeting on Friday night (25/9).
It may be going a step too far to acclaim Magic Monday, day four of track and field competition at the Sydney Olympics, as perfect. Just as with records, one great day of athletics competition can eventually be surpassed by another. But it would be fair to say that anything better, even by the merest poofteenth, would have been perfect. Topped by Cathy Freeman’s resounding victory in the 400 metres, a victory which, even if for a moment only, united a nation, reconciling Australia with a past it has all too often wished out of existence, the day’s nine finals generated wave after wave of emotion which, as they mutually reinforced each other, grew into a tsunami.
Sunday night spent reliving those wonderful moments in Sydney as Catherine Freeman took the gold medal in the 400 metres. Wake up Friday morning to learn that Stewart McSweyn has taken down the national record in the 3000 at Rome’s Golden Gala Diamond League. Not a bad week, you’d have to say. Even better when you factor in a national record 4:00.42 for Jessica Hull in Berlin, yet another fast 1500 by McSweyn in Zagreb, winning there in 3:32.17 just a few days before Rome. Or Nicola McDermott getting over 1.95 metres to take third place in the Rome high jump.
A 3:32.17 win for Stewart McSweyn over 1500 in Zagreb on Tuesday night (15 September), was a national record of sorts, the second, 7:28.02 two days later for third over 3000 in Rome, was some sort of national record, taking down no less than the great Craig Mottram by some four seconds.
Jessica Hull broke the Australian record for 1500 metres in Berlin on Sunday (13 February), taking it down to 4:00.42 in finishing third behind Britain’s pair of Lauras, Muir and Weightman.
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