Sally Pearson continued to demand the limelight and Alana Boyd just as tenaciously tried to grab it back as the Qantas Australian Athletics Tour moved to Perth for the Perth Track Classic on Saturday night (11).
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 Challengeseries.
In Perth Pearson ran her first hurdles of the year and completed a 100m Hurdles / 100m flat double in 12.86 seconds and 11.28 respectively. But Boyd came surging back later in the evening with an Australian all-comers record of 4.66 metres in the Pole Vault and a good attempt at an outright Australian record 4.75.
Just as in Adelaide a fortnight ago, the two women battled it out for athlete of the meeting honours. There were other contenders, US thrower Russ Winger pumped out a 65.46 metres effort in the men’s Discus Throw and Beijing 2008 Olympic champion Stephanie Brown Trafton defeated her US teammate Aretha Thurmond and Australia’s 2009 World champion Dani Samuels in the women’s Discus Throw.
Daegu 2011 finalist Henry Frayne moved to equal-third on the Australian all-time list in the triple jump, too, but Pearson and Boyd again stood head and shoulders above the rest.
Stumble can’t stop Pearson
In Pearson’s final hurdles race for 2011 she fell in the Brussels Samsung Diamond League final.
There was an uncanny echo of that in her first race of the Olympic year. Aiming for a time in the 12.6-7 range, Pearson looked on track for that until a small stumble at the sixth hurdle.
So great was her margin then, that Pearson probably could have recovered from even a fall. Even with the stutter, her 12.86 gave her a margin of over half-a-second from last-year’s eighth-fastest woman, Nia Ali of the USA (13.39).
“I was going almost too fast,” said Pearson of the stumble, “and I just about tripped myself.”
“I have Sydney next week, so it’s good to get one race out before that.”
Pearson said she was not feeling the pressure of being World champion and Olympic favourite.
“No, not at all; I love racing in Australia and I love being the one to chase. It keeps me on my toes.”
Earlier in the evening, Pearson won the 100 in 11.28, making it two performances better than the Olympic A-standard. Melissa Breen, who had run 11.35 in Canberra a few days earlier, was second in 11.53.
Boyd sets new all-comers mark
While Pearson was creating most of the headlines on the track, Boyd’s all-comers mark was the highlight of a strong field events programme.
The new Perth stadium, opened for the 2010 Australian championships, boasts first-rate field event facilities and Perth’s consistent and favourable winds are the stuff of jumpers’ and throwers’ dreams.
Boyd, who missed qualifying for the World Championships final in Daegu last year on count-back, has been an athlete on a mission this Australian season, with two competitions at 4.60 or better coming in to Perth.
Here, she sailed over 4.66 to add one centimetre to Kym Howe’s all-comers mark set in winning at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games.
Boyd then had the bar raised to 4.75, which would have been an outright Australian record, surpassing the mark Howe set in Donetsk in 2007. She went close on one attempt, but was unable to clear. In Boyd’s present form, however, it seems possible this year. Vicky Parnov was second at 4.35 with her sister, Liz Parnov, third with 4.25.
Winger wings one
Russ Winger has proved a popular performer on the Australian circuit so far this season and then personable American produced possibly his best performance of the tour when he hurled the discus 65.46 metres.
The men’s Discus Throw was only a three-man contest, but Australia’s Daegu finalist Benn Harradine made it a memorable one with a season’s best 63.40 for second place.
It was a good night in the women’s circle, too, with the first three all over 60 metres in a high-class competition. Beijing 2008 Olympic champion Trafton-Brown was best of the trio with 61.71; Thurmond reached 60.96 and Samuels had a best of 60.74.
Kara Patterson made it three wins for the USA in throwing events with a 59.18 effort to take the women’s Javelin Throw. Australia’s World championships finalist Kim Mickle is still on the injured list.
Frayne Closing in on Olympic A-standard
The Olympic A-standard in the men’s Triple Jump is a tough one, at 17.20 metres. Henry Frayne finished ninth in Daegu without ever getting to it. But he soon will, if his performance in Perth is any guide. Frayne won the competition with a 17.14w (+2.5). He also had a legal 17.09, which moved him into equal-third on the Australian all-time list with Ian Campbell, fifth in the 1980 Olympics. Only Ken Lorraway (17.46) and Andrew Murphy (17.32) are ahead of this pair.
Fabrice Lapierre, the Doha 2010 World Indoor champion, showed that a long battle with injury may be behind him with a 7.81m (+1.4) in the men’s Long Jump. In his last competition in Perth, Lapierre jumped a wind-aided 8.78, but this competition may be almost as significant if it proves the turning point in his injury battles since then.
Another man who may be putting injury woes behind him is John Steffensen who won the 400 metres in 46.11 seconds, a moderate time but a good win over a strong field headed by Steve Solomon (46.26), Benn Offereins (46.49), Greg Nixon (USA) and Sean Wroe.
The women’s one-lap events produced two Olympic B-standard performances. With Jana Pittman missing due to injury, Lauren Boden won the 400m Hurdles in 55.61 seconds, while Ireland’s Joanne Cuddihy won the women’s 400m in 52.08.
Len Johnson for the IAAF
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