28 JAN 2012 General News

Hooker, Manou suffer rare losses; headwind gets the better of Pearson in Adelaide

Alana Boyd in in Adelaide in the opening meeting of the 2012 Qantas Australian Athletics Tour. (Getty Images)Alana Boyd in in Adelaide in the opening meeting of the 2012 Qantas Australian Athletics Tour. (Getty Images) © Copyright

You have to go back into the mists of time to remember when Steve Hooker and Tamsyn Manou last lost to Australian domestic opponents. Both tasted defeat though in Adelaide on Saturday night (28) in the opening meeting of the Qantas Australian Athletics Tour.


The four fixture Qantas Australian Athletics Tour  concludes on 3 March 2012 in Lakeside Stadium, Melbourne with the Qantas Melbourne Track Classic  which is the opening meeting of the global 2012 IAAF World Challenge  series.


World Athlete of the Year Sally Pearson fell victim to an implacable opponent, too, but her nemesis did not take human form. Instead, it was the headwind which slowed her winning sprint double to relatively mundane times.


Had the winds blown the other way, Pearson would probably have had the performance of the meeting. Instead, that honour went to Alana Boyd, with her first-time clearance of a personal best 4.61 metres in the women’s Pole Vault.


Ryan Gregson prevailed over Jeff Riseley after an all-out sprint over the last 200 metres of the 1500. It had been pretty much a stroll until then – 3:08 at 1200 – but a final 200 in the 25-second range took Gregson to a narrow, but exciting, win.


Run-up and winds confound Hooker


You would have to go back to the days Dmitry Markov, Viktor Chistiakov and Paul Burgess ruled the roost to find the last time Hooker lost to an Australian at home.


The Hooker of January 2012, however, is a fair way back from the Hooker who made his first Olympic team in 2004, much less the one who ruled the world through the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the IAAF World Championships Berlin 2009,  and the IAAF World Indoor Championships Doha 2010.


After the low of Daegu 2011, where he failed to clear a height in qualifying, Hooker is re-building his approach before the London Olympic Games. The ‘under construction’ signs will be up for a little while longer, if Adelaide is any guide.


Jumping off an eight-step run-up, and with all the competitors battling swirling winds, Hooker produced a couple of big clearances at 4.85 and 5.00 metres, mixed with misses and even a couple of time-fouls.


Joel Pocklington won with a height of 5.15 with James Filshie, son of four-time former national champion Ross, nudging Hooker out of second place at 5.00 metres on count-back. Ironically, both men come from Melbourne’s Box Hill club where Mark Stewart, who guided both Hooker and Emma George through the early part of their careers, is coach.


“The heat and the wind made it hard,” Hooker said of the conditions, “and Joel put together a good jump at 5.15 to win the competition. Good luck to him.”


Manou leaves it too late


When Tamsyn Manou (nee Lewis) is charging home up the final straight of a domestic 800, she almost invariably wins.


In Adelaide, however, Manou had left herself far too much work to do to catch Kelly Hetherington, who won in a personal best 2:02.46.


The pacemaker only went 300 metres, but Hetherington was on her heels at that point while Manou had been shuffled back to the rear of the field. Hetherington still held a 6-8 metre lead with 200 to go and actually extended that up the final straight as Manou realised she could not catch her.


Manou, the 2008 World indoor champion, rarely loses in Australia. Indeed, the only loss this correspondent can recall at 800 was to Libby Allen and Denmark’s Rikki Ronholt in the pre-Athens 2004 domestic season.


“I’ve been focusing on my finish. I’ve got more to give,” said the winner. Just as well, because you can bet Manou does as well.


Pearson restores normality


Pearson opened her domestic season with an 11.25 sec run over 100m two weeks ago in Brisbane. She was hoping for more in Adelaide, which has been experiencing a heatwave over the past fortnight.


Well, it stayed hot, but a change was blowing in at last. That meant headwinds in the straight for both sprints.


Pearson won the 100 in 11.31, into a 1.4, and the 200 in 23.11, into a 3.6. The 200m time hurt a little, as Pearson was hoping to bring her best down under 23 seconds.


“If (the wind) had been the other way around, I would have,” Pearson said. “I would have done it for sure today if conditions were better. I’m definitely faster than what I was this time in the world championships year.”


Pearson’s opponents in the Olympic sprint hurdles may well hope that she gets some favourable sprint winds soon. Look what happened last year when she left the country feeling a little bit unfulfilled.


Pearson will run her first hurdles of the season in Perth on 11 February.


Boyd Nails a PB


Alana Boyd did not muck around when it came to setting a personal best in the Pole Vault. Coming in at 4.25m, the Alex Parnov-trained vaulter cleared that first time, did the same at 4.45 and the same again when the bar was raised to 4.61.


Boyd missed the Daegu final by one place, clearing 4.50, the same as the last two qualifiers but behind them on count-back. She may well feel she has something to prove this year. Only national record holder Kym Howe – 4.62 outdoors and 4.72 indoors – has jumped higher among Australian women.

Samuels, Harradine build slowly


The 2009 World Discus Throw champion Dani Samuels was over the 60m mark for the first time this year with a 61.23 throw and her world level male counterpart Benn Harradine was too, with 60.37. Harradine lost to US thrower Russ Winger, who produced a 60.98 winner, for the second time this year.


Len Johnson for the IAAF

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