Perth, AustraliaAt his previous competition he had become World indoor champion, but Fabrice Lapierre had to produce something extraordinary just to win his national title in Perth on Sunday.
The 2005 champion, Chris Noffke, rocked Lapierre and set an appreciative crowd buzzing, with a fifth-round 8.33m (+1.2) to move out of a tie with Lapierre and into the lead.
“He put the pressure on me,” Lapierre said later, “and I didn’t want to lose.”
All very well, but what Lapierre needed to satisfy that want was a jump close to his legal best of 8.35m in 2009, or maybe his wind-assisted 8.57m in Madrid the same year.
What he produced was better than both, a monster 8.78m jump that looked big from run-up to landing. The white flag went up from the take-off board, the distance went up, the only glitch was a wind-reading of +3.1, well in excess of the maximum allowable 2.0.
Lapierre didn’t know what he might have jumped with a legal wind, nor did he much mind. Noffke could only respond with a half-aborted 7.27m in the final round and the World indoor champion was again, for the third time, Australian national champion.
Having done the distance in wind-aided conditions, Lapierre is confident he can produce something similar in legal conditions - something such as Jai Taurima’s Australian record 8.49m, for example.
“It could have been 10 metres per second. That jump was incredible,” said Lapierre, “I don’t care what the wind was.”
Noffke got the consolation prize of clinching an automatic spot in Australia’s team for the Commonwealth Games later this year in Delhi. He also leapt past some great Australian long jump names in David Culbert, Tim Parravicini, Shane Hair, 1984 Olympic silver medallist Gary Honey, and Peter Burge from ninth to third on the national all-time list.
Hooker and Samuels also produce
Australia’s other two current World champions - Steve Hooker and Dani Samuels - were also in action on the final day of the championships at Perth’s new competition venue.
There had been talk of Hooker attacking Sergey Bubka’s world record 6.14m in the pre-meet publicity, but the Commonwealth, World indoor, World outdoor and Olympic champion had played his chances down a little.
“None of the world record talk came from me,” he emphasised after winning with a ‘modest’ 5.80m.
Hooker opened at 5.55m, then cleared 5.80m before failing twice at 5.95m and once at 6.01m to go out of the competition an easy winner (the next best height was 5.05m).
He nonetheless thought that the warm, sunny conditions of the final day and the consistent tailwind had offered the possibility of something more.
“They were good conditions to jump in,’ Hooker said, “and I’m a little disappointed I didn’t jump as well as I’d have liked.”
Samuels, who became the youngest women’s World champion in the discus in Berlin last year, won her specialty with a distance of 63.31m. It was her sixth national title in a row, all achieved before her 22nd birthday!
“I had two 63m throws and one more in the high 62m,” Samuels said, nominating it as one of her best-ever series.
Class of 2005 returns
Samuels was one of a swag of teenagers who won senior Australian national titles in 2005. Chris Noffke was another, and he has clearly emerged from a mediocre couple of years since.
Two others to make it back to the top this year have been Ben Offereins and Katherine Katsenavakis. Offereins has been a re-emergent star right through the Australian season, dominating the 400m and reducing his personal best to 44.86.
The 400 was one of the best events of the titles, with defending Commonwealth champion John Steffensen, defending national champion Sean Wroe, Olympic year emerger Joel Milburn and Offereins all vying for three individual spots for Delhi.
In the end, Offereins was simply too good for his opposition, daring them to chase him as he led all the way to win in 45.17. His time could have been faster had the new facility possessed starter speakers as Offereins started from lane seven on the nine-lane track.
He caught Steffensen to his outside in the first 120 metres. Wroe, on his inside with Milburn, chased hard, perhaps too hard as he dropped from second to fourth in the straight. Steffensen thrust his chest ahead of Milburn on the line to take second, 45.72 to 45.75. Wroe was fourth in 45.98.
“It was good to have John to chase,” said the winner. “I knew the others would be chasing me from the inside, so I decided to just go as fast as I could.”
Katsenavakis came to the top only at the end of the season, capping a return from a series of injuries. After a slow first lap, she won a stirring duel with defending champion Madeleine Pape up the final straight to win, 2:04.58 to 2:04.82.
The sprints had been expected to be hot in Perth, but cool and still conditions late on Saturday held Aaron Rouge-Serret (10.17 this year) and Melissa Breen (11.34) back to winning times of 10.32 and 11.50, respectively.
Patrick Johnson, 37, took out a popular win in the men’s 200 in 20.78 just ahead of Rouge-Serret. It was Johnson’s first national title since the 200 in 2006.
Jody Henry capped a fine year with a 200/400 title double, defeating visiting Irish runner Joanne Cuddihy in the 200, and finishing second behind her in the 400.
Tamsyn Lewis was fourth in the 400 and second in the 400 hurdles to Lauren Boden (winner in 55.86) making it the first year since 1997 that Lewis has returned home from the nationals without a gold medal.
Ryan Gregson took his first senior title when he outsprinted Jeff Riseley, Jeremy Roff and Mitch Kealey to win the 1500 just eight days short of his 20th birthday.
Gregson showed great maturity along with his known talent to win in 3:44.99 from Riseley (3:45.15) and Roff (3:45.37).
Lachlan Renshaw won the 800, controlling the final 300 metres of the race, in 1:46.66 to clinch a place in the Delhi team.
Kaila McKnight picked the right moment to hit peak form, taking the women’s 1500 narrowly from Bridey Delaney.
Eloise Wellings produced a 2:50 final kilometre to take the women’s 5000 in 15:23.53, while Ben St Lawrence caught Collis Birmingham just short of the line to take the men’s 5000 in 13:40.54. Birmingham injected a savage surge at 3000 metres which produced a final 2k of 5:05.
World indoor shot finalist Scott Martin took that event from Dale Stevenson, 19.83m to 19.67m, and finished second in the discus to Benn Harradine, throwing 60.25m to Harradine’s 62.26m. Olympic finalist Jarrod Bannister threw 83.17m to win the men’s javelin from New Zealand’s Stuart Farquhar, 81.01m.
World championships representative Kimberley Mickle produced a best of 60.66m to take the women’s javelin.
Liz Parnov became the youngest member of the team for Delhi when she won the women’s Pole Vault on countback from 2008 Olympian Alana Boyd at 4.40m.
Parnov, daughter of legendary vault coach Alex, younger sister of Vicky, niece of Tatiana Grigorieva and training partner of Steve Hooker does not turn 16 until next month.
Len Johnson for the IAAF
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