By Len Johnson – Runner’s Tribe – Reporting from the Gold Coast
Back in the early days of Australian television, there was a cartoon character named Tom Terrific.
“I’m Tom Terrific, greatest hero ever,” the theme song went.
Tom Walsh is the modern day Tom Terrific. A 22.45 metres Games’ record on day one, a gold medal on day two – these are the kinds of thing that justify such status.
Since 2014, Walsh has acquired a World championships gold medal, two World indoor titles and Olympic bronze medal and, now, a Commonwealth gold.
All that is missing is the Olympic title, and who is to say the 26-year-old will not rectify that at Tokyo 2020.
Walsh was over a metre short of his Games record 22.45 in qualifying the previous day. It says a lot about his recent form that you can be mildly disappointed with a throw of ‘only’ 21.41, but there it is.
So far in 2018, Walsh has set an outdoor Commonwealth record 22.67, won the World indoor championship, and had nine competitions (including qualifying here) with just one below 21 metres. And that one produced a 20.99.
Walsh, of course, often competed and trained in Australia earlier in his career, but not frequently enough for us to claim him from our Trans-Tasman neighbours in the manner of Sam Neill, Russell Crowe, Phar Lap, etc, etc.
More’s the pity.
But Australia had plenty to roar about on day two as a young team continued to compete well on the Commonwealth stage.
The biggest roar came for Celia Sullohern who continued her charge back to the top of Australian distance running by challenging for a medal all the way through a gripping women’s 10,000 metres.
It was a strange race, full of surges but short on breakaways as Kenya and Uganda struggled for supremacy. Sullohern and, until the very end, Madeline Hills, were there all the way through and when Sullohern surged around the outside of a pack of eight to contest the lead with 500 metres to go.
The roar pretty well raised the Carrara Stadium roof. Sullohern, based in northern New South Wales, is close enough for Queenslanders to claim as their own in the same manner as we Aussies appropriate Kiwis (see above).
Ultimately, Sullohern fell just short, finishing in sixth place one behind the first non-east African, Natasha Wodak of Canada. But she had given winning a good shot.
Kenya had come here talking of clean sweeps in the women’s 10,000. In the end, it was Uganda who took the lion’s share of the medals, Stella Chesang won the gold from Kenya’s Stacy Ndiwa, adding a 15:31 second half to a slowish 16:14 first 5000. And Mercyline Chelangat outsprinted the second Kenyan, Beatrice Mutai, for the bronze.
So, two distance races, two golds for Uganda, none for Kenya. Could we be seeing a new contender for east African distance supremacy.
The bold showing by Sullohern in the 10,000 followed two 1500 metres heats which ultimately saw all three Australians advance to the final.
Caster Semenya, looking for an 800-1500 double, won the first heat in 4:05.86, pulling the next seven athletes through to the final under a first four, plus next four fastest, qualification. Chasing Semenya home was Georgia Griffith in a personal best 4:06.41.
The second heat brought most of the drama. It was a touch slower than the first heat, leaving a charge up the final straight to grab the vital first four place.
Linden Hall, who had raced near the front for most of the race, was in a group of athletes as Kenya’s Winny Chebet tried to find a way through where there was none. The Kenyan ran into the back of Hall and fell, ending her own chances and slowing those behind her.
Hall was safely through in third place behind Kenya’s Beatrice Chepkoech. So, it looked like two out of three Australians to the final.
Then, in one of those appeal decisions none of us can truly understand (even if we welcome this one), Zoe Buckman and England’s Sarah McDonald were also advanced to the final. Certainly they copped the most severe interference from the fall but neither was gaining ground on the first four.
Steve Solomon got through to the 400 final as one of the fastest non-automatics, Damien Birkinhead threw 20.77 to finish just out of the medals in the shot put and Cedric Dubler is in the hunt for a medal in the decathlon.
A good day all round.