Tamsyn Lewis took her ninth national 800m title on the final night of the Selection Trials & 86th Australian Championships in Brisbane, locking in her Beijing double to continue a remarkable vein of form.
Dani Samuels (discus throw) and Alana Boyd (pole vault) also did what was required for nomination and will make their Olympic Games debuts in August.
Tonight, Lewis let fellow Victorian Madeleine Pape take the reins for most of the race before assuming control near the final bend to run it out strongly.
It wasn’t the quickest time of 2:02.12, but Lewis had entered the final with five A-qualifiers and simply needed to win. Pape, working hard, finished in 2:03.52.
“I enjoyed that immensely,” Lewis said. “Next week the indoors are going to be really competitive and I haven’t really had the chance to practise that (coming from behind) this year.
“I want to get used to the competition and be in a real race like the 800s are overseas. It’s not me out the front and everyone chasing, it’s not like that. So I practised that tonight and I think I made a point that it is harder leading.”
Yesterday, Lewis confirmed her place in the 400 metres with a career-best run.
Australia’s fastest man over 400 metres this season became its national champion after a scintillating final closed the evening.
Joel Milburn, who ran an A-qualifier of 45.19 at the New South Wales Championships last month, held out Commonwealth Games champion John Steffensen and 2007 title holder Sean Wroe to take his maiden national crown in 45.90.
You could hear a pin drop at the Queensland Sport & Athletics Centre as the field set their blocks; the race didn’t disappoint.
Steffensen (46.17) looked the goods for the first 300 metres and appeared primed to break from his opponents, until Milburn found wind to pinch the lead and hold it for the line.
“We’ve got really strong 400m depth at the moment and it is going to be really good for when we go to Beijing for the relay,” he said. “If we can come together when we need to we will really run well on the world circuit so I am really looking forward to racing overseas with these guys.
“I knew John would go through the first 200 really quick. He has got a really fast back straight so I thought that I could probably win it on the third bend. I smashed that third bend really hard and levelled up with him and from there on it is just whoever can hold on. I've obviously run more races than him this season so I had the strength to hold on at the end.”
Wroe (46.23), like Steffensen needed to win to be automatically selected for Beijing and may feel he gave the pair too much room early in the race.
“The other guys ran a better tactical race but I did my best and hopefully I will get selected for the Olympic Games,” he said. “Now it is not in my hands. I haven't cemented that position so I have to wait and see.”
Talented young Queenslander Dylan Grant was fourth (46.57).
Discus thrower Dani Samuels and pole vaulter Alana Boyd know for certain that they will be selected after winning their respective events in A-qualifying standards.
World junior champion Samuels shored up her prospects with a personal best in her the first throw of the afternoon.
The 19 year-old, who took her fourth consecutive national title, launched 62.95m for her third PB in less than a month. Her previous mark lasted little more than a week; at the World Athletics Tour in Melbourne she threw 61.92m.
“I’m stunned that I did a PB,” she said. “I was just trying to get a 61 again. I think I just nailed it so hopefully I can improve on that for Beijing.
“I’m just really excited and looking forward to the preparation and working harder and harder. I’m excited I’m actually getting PBs because I hadn’t had one in about a year-and-a-half until about two weeks ago.”
Boyd, who secured her two required A-qualifiers on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane last weekend, added a third of 4.45m tonight for her first national title.
It appears the 23 year-old has turned the tables on an often frustrating 2007 that saw her drop out of the World Championships in the qualifying stages.
World youth champion Vicky Parnov was second with 4.20m.
Local girl Fiona Cullen joined Lewis in the double club, adding the Australian 100m hurdles title (fourth overall) to yesterday’s win over the flat.
“This season has been such a mixed bag for me and the performances really just haven’t been there,” she said. “I’m a little bit disappointed with that tonight - to come fourth and still win - but you don’t shun away a gold medal.
“With the absence of Sally (McLellan) this year, it’s left it wide open for me.”
AIS athlete Daniel Batman strengthened his solid season with a win in the men’s 200 metres in 20.89 (-1.2).
The burly sprinter looked good from the gun, accounting for New Zealanders James Dolphin (21.12) and Matt Brown (21.42) with Queensland’s Matt Davies fourth.
Three-time national champion Patrick Johnson pulled up with what appeared to be a hamstring strain about 80 metres in and walked from the track at that point.
While Johnson’s withdrawal could have been a distraction, Batman stayed focused.
“I’ve lost my concentration in the past in a race and I was so disappointed with myself for so long,” he said. “I had to learn to focus on my race plan internally rather than externally and that’s what I’ve managed to do with the more experience I’ve got.”
Batman will join Milburn, Wroe, Grant and Mark Ormrod in the 4 x 400m relay team that will compete at the World Indoor Championships in Valencia, Spain next weekend.
Lachlan Renshaw won his first 800m title, as anticipated, continuing his unbeaten domestic season which included an A-qualifier in Melbourne.
He finished in 1:47.57 to hold out last year’s champion Nick Bromley (1:48.48), the ACT’s Toby Sutherland (1:48.63) and World Championships representative Jeffrey Riseley (1:49.11), and hopes he’s in the thoughts of the selectors.
“I’m undefeated this season and I’m young,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll pick me.”
In other events, seventeen year-old Olivia Tauro was the best Australian in the women’s 200m, finishing a close third (23.86) to Fiji’s Makelesi Batimala (23.76) and New Zealand’s Monique Williams (23.79). Olympian Lauren Hewitt was fifth in 24.37.
World University Games champion Robbie Crowther won the men’s long jump with 7.86m (+0.3), holding out 2007 champion Tim Parravicini (7.71m (+0.2)).
Commonwealth Games representative Benn Harradine just missed a B-qualifier in the men’s discus throw, but looked promising on his way to 62.37m.
Justin Merlino won his second 110m hurdles title, right on the B-qualifying standard of 13.72 (-0.2), while Canberran Lauren Boden defended the 400m hurdles in 58.06.
Queensland’s Catherine Drummond won the women’s high jump with 1.84m from Vicki Collins (1.81m) and Ellen Pettitt (1.81m), while triple jumper Emma Knight won in 13.18m.
In the women’s hammer throw, New South Wales’ Bronwyn Eagles won her sixth national title with a throw of 63.65m. Karyne Di Marco, the 2007 champion, was second with 60.08m.
photos Janos Schmidt