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Women's 400m hurdles final

Steven Downes for the IAAF

21 October 2000 – Jana Pittman had no sooner completed an astonishing golden double of 400 metres and 400 metres hurdles at the World Junior Championships here on Saturday, than she was setting her sights at accomplishing a similar double at Olympic level to match the gold medal-winning feat at the Sydney Games of Australian heroine Cathy Freeman.

Pittman had survived a gruelling race programme of five races in as many days here, winning the 400 metres final on Friday and then withstanding a late surge over the hurdles from Dutch woman Marjolein de Jong to achieve an unprecedented double with victory in 56.27sec to de Jong’s 56.50. Jamaica’s Melanie Walker took the bronze in 56.96.

Even the tough and powerful Pittman was forced to accept that the race programme had almost caught her out. "I have to admit, that last 100 metres was very difficult for me," said the young woman who came to prominence last year when she won the World Youth 400m hurdles title in Poland.

"No one’s ever done this 400-400 hurdles double before, and I wanted to be the first, to make a bit of history."

Three weeks short of her 18th birthday, Pittman is a high school student from Sydney who trains with Melinda Gainsford-Taylor and sometimes also with Freeman, the Australian icon who lit the Olympic flame last month and won the 400m gold.

Pittman said that she was inspired by taking part at the Sydney Games and that she now wants to emulate Freeman’s achievement, and the 1988 400m hurdles gold won by another Australian, Debbie Flintoff-King.