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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.

A column by Len Johnson - 23/07/21 The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games haven’t even started and Australia is dominating. Some hours before the Opening Ceremony, as this is written, Australia is already up and about. In women’s football, goals to Tameka Yallop and the talismanic Sam Kerr took the Matildas to...
By Len Johnson They’re not necessarily the sort of figures you’d like associated with your name, but Stewart McSweyn now boasts a pair of impressive performances at 3000 metres. Seven minutes 30 seconds for 3000 metres represents 60 seconds per lap. Not many men have ever broken 7:30 for the distance. Even...
Monaco’s Stade Louis II stadium has become the locus of superfast middle-distance performances over recent years. Before we start wondering whether there might be something miraculous in the Mediterranean air, there are some other obvious factors at play.
For Australians, though, it was only the mile that mattered. Any year a Norwegian athlete is not attempting a world record – which is most years – the Dream Mile is the closing event of the Bislett Games. And this year, Australia’s Stewart McSweyn won it.
Universality. In the long and endless deliberations about the new qualification system for Olympic Games and world championships, who knew about the universality clause.
It is the eve of the US Olympic Trials as this piece is being written, the meeting American track and field fans will tell you is right up there with the Olympic Games. Some will go even further than that. Looking you squarely in the eye, they will proclaim the Trials to be even better than the Games.
A column by Len Johnson The observer was not impressed by the men’s 1500 metres final, describing it as “the most ridiculously tactical championship ever run.” Which championship? Which final? An honourable fail if you plumped for the most recent Olympic final in Rio five years ago when Matt Centrowitz won...
Australia lost one of its athletics’ greats with the death of Rick Mitchell on 30 May. A nation our size doesn’t produce many Olympic gold medallists, even fewer on the male side of the gender balance. And still fewer in individual track events. With a silver medal in the 400 metres in Moscow in 1980, Mitchell is our most recent male Olympic medallist in an individual track event. Before ‘Mitch’, it’s right back to 1968 and Ralph Doubell with his gold medal in the 800 metres in Mexico City.
No such difficulty in nominating a favourite performance of the week. That would have to be Jeff Riseley’s 1:45.34 800 victory in the Citta di Conegliano meeting in Italy. Many things you could say here – just off the plane, ran down Algeria’s Mohamed Belbachir up the final straight, missed the Olympic auto standard by a mere 0.14 seconds. Mostly, however, it was a performance to make you smile.
“What’s wrong with this picture?,” asks Van Morrison in the song of the same title. “There’s something I’m not seeing here.” Repeating the question, Morrison observes that what’s wrong (is) “something that’s not exactly clear.” As the vision streamed in from Gateshead last Monday morning, it was all too clear what...