Published with permission thanks to Athletics Australia
It was a monumental night in The Maracanã Stadium.
The evening session of the third day of athletics action saw Wayde Van Niekerk (RSA) charge home in 43.03 to smash the men’s 400m world record to nearly steal the spotlight from the main event, the men’s 100m. With all the theatre you would expect, Usain Bolt (JAM) brought the lightening to make history winning his third consecutive 100m Olympic gold.
Earlier during the morning program, our marathon trio of Milly Clark (NSW), Jess Trengove (SA) and Lisa Weightman (Vic) had a strong showing on the roads of Rio.
Jemima Jelagat Sumgong (KEN) in 2:24:04 took the line honours, with Olympic debutant Clark the highest placed Australian in 18th place in 2:30.53. It was the fifth best placing by an Australian in the event and a sensational result for the 27-year-old who is a relative newcomer to the marathon event.
It was a gold medal performance according to Clark herself, who said after the event, “Before I came over I did set a goal. I usually make my gold, silver and bronze goal. And the gold goal was to come top 20 and that was going to be the most amazing thing, and silver would be top 25.
“First Olympics, top 20 – it hasn’t really sunk in,” Clark said. “I think it will when I see my family and my coach and everyone else.
“I’m absolutely exhausted but at the same time I’m so proud of not just myself but the other girls,” she said.
South Australian sporting royalty Jess Trengove finished just behind Clark in 22nd position in 2:31:44 – an early present for the popular team member who celebrates her 29th birthday today.
“I really feel like I gave myself every chance to put myself up in the mix,” Trengove said.
“It was a big improvement on my 39th in London and I will just keep looking to raise the bar,” she said.
Dual Preston AC / Melbourne University AC member Lisa Weightman was 31st in 2:34.41. The 3-time Olympian was disappointed with her run saying, “I came her in career best shape but it just wasn’t my day. When I went to push, my legs just didn’t want to go.”
In the evening session, 22-year-old Brandon Starc (NSW) leapt his way into the Olympic high jump final, clearing 2.29m on this third and final attempt in the qualifying round.
Starc, who sits in second on the Australian all-time list behind Tim Forsyth, will aim to build on his 12th place from the 2015 world championships high jump final when he lines up in the final at 9:30 AEST Wednesday morning.
Teammate, 20-year-old Joel Baden (Vic) didn’t have his best competition and managed only one clearance of 2.17m.
On the track, young guns Morgan Mitchell (Vic) and Anneliese Rubie (NSW) lined up for the race of their lives in the women’s 400m semi-finals.
Mitchell gave it her all, before fading in the final straight to finish in 52.68.
“I’m happy I made the semi. This morning didn’t really go to plan but what can you do?” she said.
“I tried to go with them, just wasn’t fit enough I think.
“A lot of planning to do, but hopefully next year and the year after I’ll be fitter and stronger – that’s all I can ask for,”Morgan said.
Rubie came home strong to finish 6th in her semi in 51.96, and was pleased and equally as philosophical about the Olympic experience.
“I’m happy with how I held my own in that last 50 meters,” Rubie said. “Again I wish I was a little bit quicker – maybe under my PB but to compete like that on the world stage I’m pretty happy.
“I gave it my best, I really used the crowd so I’m definitely going to take this away, build on it and come back next time and be in those top few spots,” she said.
Morgan and Rubie will form one half of the Australian 4x400m relay team that competes on Saturday at 9:40am AEST
Three runners flew the Aussie flag in the women’s 1500m semi-finals – Linden Hall (Vic), Zoe Buckman (Vic)and Jenny Blundell (NSW).
Hall and Buckman (Vic) gave themselves every chance in the first semi-final, but couldn’t find a way out of the push and shove of the pack or maintain the tempo to finish in the required top 5.
Hall finished in 4:05.81 in 8th, with Buckman 9th in 4:06.95.
22-year-old Blundell (NSW) placed 11th in semi-final two sitting in third place at the bell, but dropped off the pack when the pace lifted.
“I gave it everything, but didn’t have the legs,” Blundell said after the race.
“She did everything right, but the change of pace was brutal,” was the summation by Seven commentator Bruce McAvaney of Blundell’s efforts.
First up, speedster Ella Nelson (NSW) enters her first Olympic Games with a brilliant streak of domestic performances behind her. Nelson ran the fastest 200m by an Australian woman since Melinda Gainsford-Taylorat the Sydney Olympics in 2000, with 22.53 in Canberra in February.
At 22-years-old, Nelson is a youngster on the rise, and has shrugged off a hamstring injury in May but hasn’t lead in any races prior to Rio.
Our steeplechasers Madeline Hills (NSW) and Genevieve LaCaze (Qld) will race in the women’s 3000m steeplechase final after fighting their way through the opening round.
“It was a messy race,” LaCaze said of her round one effort two days ago.
“I was just talking to myself in my head and saying stay calm, don’t panic, don’t get anxious, because people are stepping on my heels, I’m stepping on people’s heels, at the water jump I landed on top of a girl’s back, I was being piggy-backed,” she said.
Australia has never had a finalist in the women’s steeplechase, so history is already made no matter the result.
Evening session in Rio (Tuesday morning in Australia)
Dani Samuels (NSW) is making her third Olympic Games appearance in the women’s discus throw qualifying and is a genuine chance to finish on the podium in Rio, with two Olympic finals on her resume already. Add to that, gold from world youth, world junior, Commonwealth Games, world university and world championships – that is some resume.
At 28, Samuels is now at the peak of her powers and is ready for the next step in Rio.
Lauren Wells (ACT), one of Australia’s team leaders in Rio, opens her second Olympic campaign in the women’s 400m hurdles after making the semis in London four years ago. If this nine-time national champion is at her best, she can set her sights on a spot in the final, but first, a tough first round waits.