17 FEB 2007 General News Sydney, Australia

Steffensen upsets Merritt in Sydney A-series opener

John Steffensen after his lopsided victory over LaShawn Merritt in Sydney (Getty Images)John Steffensen after his lopsided victory over LaShawn Merritt in Sydney (Getty Images) © Copyright

Boisterous Australian John Steffensen was unusually reserved after breaking heavy training to clock 45.07sec and humble visiting American LaShawn Merritt over 400m at the Sydney Telstra A-Series meet at Olympic Park.

The meeting was an Oceania Permit Meeting, the second of three in the Area which allow athletes to score points for the IAAF World Athletics Tour.

Merritt, 20, who was third fastest in the world last year with his best of 44.14, only briefly challenged Steffensen at the top of the home straight before yielding to finish second in 45.81 on a warm and humid evening.

Steffensen celebrates with a post-race workout!

Steffensen then headed off to the nearby warm-up track to run a stomach-churning set of 10 x 200m off short recoveries, all part of the buildup to Osaka where he will celebrate his 25th birthday a day before the World Championship 400m final on August 31.

"My birthday is the 30th - and I get my present the next day," quipped Steffensen, a finalist at the 2005 World Championships.

"I'm still training hard. We trained very hard this week. By Japan you have to be running 43.7 to win. So you still have to be able to train hard and be good enough to drop a time like this (45.07). The plan is to win in Osaka in late August.

"If you want to be taken seriously you have to be capable of running times like this when you're in training, but every time I talk like this people interpret it as arrogance rather than confidence.

"I have a great coach (John Smith, coach of Olympic 400m champions Steve Lewis, Quincy Watts and Marie Jose-Perec) and I'm trying to do my best.

"There's no way I can go to Osaka and not come away without a medal. What colour we have to wait and see.

"Craig (Mottram) is doing a great job in the distance running. We have to find someone to step up in the sprints - like Cathy (Freeman, Sydney Olympic 400m winner) did. I'm doing my best."

Convincing 3000m victory for Mottram

Mottram, the 5000m bronze medallist at the 2005 Helsinki World Championships, has certainly raised the flag for the Australian distance brigade and he ran well this evening, splitting a 56sec last lap to win the 3000m.

Having just flown back to Sydney following races on the US indoor circuit, Mottram recovered from the journey sufficiently to win in 7:42.00 from talented Tanzanian Dickson Marwa (7:43.01) and promising young Victorian Collis Birmingham (7:46.01).

Andrew Baddeley, the Englishman who unfortunately fell and brought down Mottram in the 1500m at last year's Melbourne Commonwealth Games, finished fifth (7:54.74) just behind New Zealand's Jason Woodhouse (7:53.97).

"It was alright. I knew it would be a bit of grind," Mottram said. "I've trained pretty hard since I've been back in Australia and it's just not quite 100 per cent there, but it's not far away. It's a pretty good time. I'm having a bit of fun and (yet) not feeling that good."

While Crawford outleans Ross...

Reigning Olympic 200m champion Shawn Crawford overcame what he thought was a poor start to win the 100m in 10.16 (+1.0m/s) from three-time Australian 100m champion Josh Ross (10.17) with Australian national record-holder (at 9.93sec) Patrick Johnson third in 10.31.

"I've been working on my start for so long, but it hasn't improved yet," said Crawford who, nevertheless, has clocked 6.55 this year, equal fourth fastest for 60m indoors to date in 2007.

"But my dad always told me, it doesn't matter how you start ... it's how you finish."

Ross, 26, backed up for his second World Championship A-qualifying time and a personal best 20.70sec (+0.9m/s) win over 200m, ahead of Daniel Batman (20.81) and New Zealand national champion James Dolphin (20.87).

...Perry edges McLellan

The World Champion over the 100m Hurdles, American Michelle Perry, clocked 12.87 and had to out-lean Australian champion Sally McLellan to claim the win, but the Queenslander's time of 12.90 was wind-assisted (+2.4m/s) and so for the second time this summer she was denied the national record.

Pam (Kilborn) Ryan's time of 12.93 has stood for 34 years, but McLellan, 20, looks likely to make it her own before the year is out.

"I think she's got what it takes. She's got a lot of tenacity," Perry said in praise of the Australian.

New Zealand's Andrea Miller ran well for third in 13.16.

McLellan reinforced her credentials for the sprint hurdles by dominating the 100m in 11.37 (+1.3m/s) ahead of Preya Carey (11.61) and Jamaican Nolle Graham (11.73).

Corrigan’s rise continues, solo 4:05.25 PB

After a couple of 2:01 800m races, Canberra's Lisa Corrigan returned to her best distance of 1500m and clocked a World Championship A-qualifying time and personal best of 4:05.25 to move to third on the Australian all-time rankings list.

In the absence of Britain's Becky Lyne, who strained a calf muscle on her final training run around Sydney harbour, Corrigan ran the last 800m alone with Sydney's Nikki Molan a distant second in 4:19.54 with Ireland's Aoife Byrne third in 4:20.14.

Algeria-born Youcef Abdi and Martin Dent worked together to make the pace in the 3000m Steeplechase, both rewarded with World Championship A-qualifying times as Abdi (8:22.7) took the win on the final lap from Dent (8:24.2) in a race which was hand-timed.

Noffke upsets Moffitt

Australia's World Youth champion, Chris Noffke leaped 7.91m (+4.5m/s) to upset American John Moffitt, the Athens Olympic silver medallist, who struggled to find the board in the wildly fluctuating wind. Moffitt jumped 7.71m (+0.5m/s).

West Australian Kym Howe, returning from the Ukraine after breaking her own national record with a leap of 4.72m, notched a fine victory this evening with a clearance of 4.45m to beat Queenslander Alana Boyd (4.35m) and Victorian Rosanna Ditton (4.20m).

Scott Martin fouled four times before winning the discus with a meet record 60.93m on his fifth throw to overcome training partner Ben Harradine's 60.76m which had been a meet record when he unleashed his best mark in the second round. Tasmanian Graham Hicks was a close third with 60.22m.

Joshua Robinson won the Javelin Throw with a World Championship B-qualifying distance of 80.72m from fellow Queenslander Jarrod Bannister (79.22m).

New Zealand's Gareth Hyett celebrated a strong win in the 1500m in 3:40.50 from Sydney stayers Brad Woods (3:41.09) and Jeremy Roff (3:41.48).

The Telstra A-Series moves on to Melbourne for the first meet of the IAAF World Athletics Tour on Friday 2 March.

Mike Hurst (Sydney Daily Telegraph) for the IAAF

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