Bathurst, Australia; February 18, 2023 – Australia’s Mixed 4x2km Relay team has raced into Australian athletics history with a bronze medal at the 2023 World Athletics Championships Bathurst, leading from the front as the world’s best runners battled both the terrain and conditions in an instant classic down under.
A day that started with scorching temperatures and ended in a thunderstorm at Mount Panorama provided a true test for distance stars from around the globe, with the home nation faring to secure a bronze medal and two fourth-place finishes.
Australia’s highly anticipated quartet of Oliver Hoare, Jessica Hull, Stewart McSweyn and Abbey Caldwell delivered under the immense pressure of a home World Championships – clinching bronze behind Kenya and Ethiopia to cement Australia’s status as a heavyweight nation of the distance running world.
“We wear the guernsey with pride and we all executed good races. To compete with the powerhouses of Ethiopia and Kenya hopefully puts Australia on the map and shows that we are part of the big-three of distance running now,” McSweyn said.
With Hoare leading out the team, it was Hull who made significant inroads on the second leg to move Australia into the lead with a 12-second turnaround, before McSweyn did what McSweyn does and Caldwell anchored the team to a 23:26 performance – five seconds behind silver (Ethiopia) and 12-seconds behind gold (Kenya).
“There is always pressure when it comes to racing on home soil when you have the resumes that we have and the anticipation of what was to come. That’s why we do this sport, we handle the pressure the way we handle it and being at home, I know personally that people have come here to cheer us on,” Hoare said.
The comments were echoed by Hull and Caldwell who were delighted with all four athletes securing their first World Championships medal:
“There is no pressure when you have three superstars with you, you know that everyone is so professional that they will do their jobs,” Hull said.
Olympic Mum Ellie Pashley lead the senior Australian senior women over 10km, registering a 19th place finish after being the sixth Australian at the trial and giving birth to daughter Tiggy just eight months ago.
“I just scraped into the Australian team at the last minute, so I would have been happy with top 30 or 40. The support on the course was insane. I have run New York Marathon before but this equalled that, it was really special to hear your name and ‘go Aussie’ on the course – it made all the difference,” Pashley said.
Despite Pashley’s brilliance, it was Australia’s resurgent depth in the distance ranks that shone as the women finished in fourth place behind East African powerhouses Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda – racing as a team to bring about a strong result on home soil.
Leanne Pompeani battled fiercely to mix it with the world’s best, clinging on to 22nd place in the home straight when immediately followed by Rose Davies. South Australian duo Caitlin Adams and Isobel Batt-Doyle finished in 28th and 29th respectively, while Georgia Hansen rounded out the star-studded line-up in 44th.
20-year-old Ky Robinson made the trip home from his Stanford base in the USA, crossing the finish line as Australia’s top performer in the Men’s 10km with a colossal 23rd place performance as the challenge quickly shifted from the heat to the wind and rain. The emerging star led the Australian men to fourth place, just two points ahead of South Africa, with established stars Jack Rayner (29th), Brett Robinson (31st) and Andrew Buchanan (33rd) forming the scoring quartet.
“I was really dreading coming back from the US because of this heat and it’s winter there. The support was fantastic, there were familiar faces and all these kids just screaming my name and it really helped me on some of those hills,” Robinsons said.
“It was very difficult, the wind was the worst factor because it was kicking up dust – I was running with my eyes closed for some sections.”
Rorey Hunter and Andre Waring completed the team with results of 40th and 51st respectively.
Archie Noakes entered the World Cross Country Championships as the only junior with international experience, proceeding to flourish in the unforgiving conditions when finishing 17th in the Under 20 Men’s 8km – the second best result by an Australian junior in the history of the event.
Assisting the junior men to sixth place on the world stage on 123 points, just two points short of a top-five finish, Noakes was pleased to lead the way for a bright crop of rising stars:
“I was not expecting that at all! My least favourite part was the hills and I didn’t really have a favourite spot, but I backed my fitness. For the last four or five weeks I have been cranking the hills and it really paid off,” Noakes said.
“It’s a team sport and the boys did really well.”
Bailey Habler (31st), Cael Mulholland (34th) and Ciaran Rushton (41st) rounded out Australia’s top-four scoring athletes.
The Under 20 women experienced mixed fortunes in the gruelling battle that was the Under 20 Women’s 6km, led by 16-year-old Aspen Anderson who finished in 35th place. The Queenslander raced aggressively before sticking on well to fight her way to the finish, followed by teammates Charli-Rose Carlyon in 39th and Gabrielle Schmidt in 42nd.
“My coach, my squad and all the Queensland athletes that came down to watch definitely pulled me through. Everyone on the sidelines at the end of the day was amazing,” Anderson said.
The combination of the course and heat proved too much for Amy Bunnage, Gabrielle Vincent and Claudia Meaker who did not complete the course but remain names of note moving forward.