Sally Pearson took the first of a projected three titles at the Australian championships with a commanding win in the women’s 100 metres today (16).
Pearson hopes to mark the last championships at Melbourne’s Olympic Park with the first women’s individual treble at an Australian championships meeting since Pam Ryan in 1968. The 100 is now safely in the bag, the 200 and 100 hurdles remain on Sunday’s final day (17).
Pearson ran 11.38 seconds into a 0.6 metres per second headwind in cool conditions. On occasions this season she has expressed disappointment about not running faster, but a win was enough to satisfy at a national championships.
“It’s nice to have that title against your name, no matter what the time,” she said.
But there was a hiccup for Craig Mottram, trying to return to the top of world-class competition after more than two years battling Achilles tendon problems.
A niggle in the lower leg which did not disappear on warming-up saw Mottram decide on a last-minute withdrawal from the heats of the men’s 1500 metres. He pulled out as the field was assembling for his heat.
It has been all on the up for Mottram in the last two months, a 13:25 5000 metres at the World Challenge meeting in Melbourne followed by a 21st place in the World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria, Spain.
Saturday night’s setback is expected to be only minor. Mottram’s coach, Chris Wardlaw, said he would probably have run had it been a one-off race. But the prospect of having to back up the following day in the final dictated a cautious approach.
Commonwealth champion and Continental Cup runner-up Benn Harradine became the first athlete to clinch automatic selection for Daegu at the championships when he won his fourth title in five years in the men’s Discus Throw.
And 32-year-old Tamsyn Lewis, the 2008 World Indoor champion at 800 metres, proved that her goal of making an Olympic final may be more than a pipe-dream with her 10th Australian 800 title (and 16th overall) in a season’s best 2:00.80.
Pearson’s win had her joining some pretty select company. It was her fifth national 100m title and she is yet to turn 25. That places her one behind 1972 Olympic silver medallist Raelene Boyle and Melinda Gainsford-Taylor for most titles won in the event.
She was a class ahead of her rivals, pulling well ahead of defending champion Melissa Breen after 40 metres to win by almost three metres.
Breen won a close battle with Charlotte van Veenendaal to take the silver medal. Both women ran 11.67.
Pearson also put herself in line for automatic selection in the 100m for Daegu, though she has already indicated that her sole individual focus at the World championships is likely to be the 100 metres Hurdles.
Aaron Rouge-Serret retained his title in the men’s 100 metres, running 10.39 to win by two metres. The men also ran into a 0.6 headwind.
Lauren Boden retained her 400 metres Hurdles title with ease, but her time of 57.47 was well behind the 55.97 she ran against Jana Pittman-Rawlinson in Perth two weeks ago. Pittman-Rawlinson ran her first hurdles in two years in Perth but was forced out of the titles by a strained calf muscle.
Tamsyn Lewis ran the fastest time in the semi-finals of the women’s 400 metres, but she had to go hard all the way to the line to hold off Queensland youngster, Caitlyn Sargent, 53.19 to 53.29.
The men’s semi-finals saw defending champion Ben Offereins hold off Sean Wroe in the first semi, 46.75 to 46.99, and emerging junior Steve Solomon come through to beat John Steffensen, 46.89 to 46.97, in the second. The two finals will be the last two events on the track at the historic championships.
Benn Harradine showed that a stint of training in Europe – which included a 65.60m performance indoors in Vaxjo, Sweden – has set him up nicely for his World championships campaign.
Harrradine was over the 60-metre line with regularity, topping his efforts with a distance of 63.15. As a gold medallist at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games, bettering the selection standard, he became an automatic selection for the World championships team by winning here.
Kimberley Mickle won the women’s Javelin Throw with a distance of 59.39 metres.
Mottram’s withdrawal from the 1500 metres stymied a potential clash with Melbourne World Challenge meeting winner Jeff Riseley in Sunday’s final.
Riseley comfortably won his heat and will be looking to regain the title he lost narrowly to Ryan Gregson in Perth last year. Gregson, who broke the Australian record in Europe last year, has missed the domestic season with a foot fracture.
Oregon-based Zoe Buckman, defending champion Kaila McKnight and Georgie Clarke, a Sydney 2000 Olympian at the age of 17, ran the fastest times in the semi-finals of the women’s 1500.
In the women’s 800, Lewis was followed home by emerging youngsters Kelly Hetherington (2:03.58) and Sianne Toemoe (2:03.59). The 10-time champion is confident her form in the two-lap event can carry through to Daegu and London 2012.
“Tonight shows that despite having a lot of racing this weekend I am capable of both the 400 and 800,” Lewis said.
“National titles mean a lot to me and I think missing out last year has really pushed me.
“I’ll head into another solid winter and know that I am capable of making a serious play for London.”
James Kaan upset defending champion Lachlan Renshaw to take the men’s 800m title, 1:47.48 to 1:47.88. Kaan, 20, was a finalist in both the 2007 World Youth and 2008 World Junior Championships.
Len Johnson for the IAAF
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