You can’t keep a good man down, especially one as strong as Tomas Walsh.
The world shot put champion suffered a rare southern hemisphere defeat when he lost to Poland’s Konrad Bukowiecki in Auckland on 21 March, but the New Zealand champion bounced back with a world outdoor lead on the final day of the Australian Championships in Sydney on Sunday (7).
World and 2012 Olympic champion Sally Pearson also made her return to her flagship 100m hurdles and was straight back into sub-13-second form, winning her heat in 12.99 (0.8m/s) from Brianna Beahan, 13.07.
On a typically sticky Sydney autumn morning, however, the heat did for Pearson. She did not run the final just over 90 minutes later after her heat effort left her “exhausted”.
“I don’t know what it is,” said Pearson. “I felt like I was over-heating and my legs felt like lead. That race was hard, it was super-hard, and I don’t know why.
“I’m disappointed, really disappointed, but I’m actually going to listen to my body this year,” said Pearson. "When it’s down and can’t move, I’ve got to listen to it and move on to the next race.”
Lauren Wells had no such problems in taking her 12th national title in the 400m hurdles. At 31 this year Wells is approaching the veteran stage but she produced the fastest race of her career to win in 54.87, ahead of New Zealand’s Portia Bing and Sarah Carli.
Walsh back out near 22 metres
Just 17 days after failing to reach 21 metres in losing to Bukowiecki, 21.32m to 20.84m, Walsh was back out near the 22-metre line when he threw 21.91m to defeat Australia’s Damien Birkinhead (19.79m) by just over two metres. Birkinhead took out the national title.
Walsh added eight centimetres to the outdoor world lead of 21.83m set by Brazil’s Darlan Romani in February.
With Pearson forced to the sidelines, it was Oceanian U20 heptathlon record-holder Celeste Mucci who grabbed her chance ahead of the hurdles specialists.
Mucci took the senior title in 13.09, taking one tenth of a second off her previous best. Beahan, 13.11, and Michelle Jenneke, 13.12, were right on her heels, but Mucci edged them out to complete a sprint hurdles-heptathlon double at the championships.
Rare loss inspires Wells
A rare domestic loss was the catalyst for Wells’ personal best in the long hurdles. In Canberra at the end of January she was defeated by Sarah Carli, the first time she had finished behind another Australian in Australia for five years.
She stamped her authority on the race early, going out hard and building a big lead. Her winning time of 54.87 was the first sub-55 of a long career. Bing, the combined-eventer now concentrating on the hurdles, slashed her previous best in running 55.86, and Carli was third in 56.08. Only Dani Stevens, with 13 in the discus, has won more titles in a single event than Wells’ dozen.
The hurdles was one of a number of events to produce qualifying performances for the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019. One of the more surprising was the 2:00.48 victory by Catriona Bisset in the women’s 800m. Having progressed from 2:09 to 2:03 last year after moving from Sydney to Melbourne to train with Cathy Freeman’s coach, Peter Fortune, Bisset has continued to improve in 2018-19.
After improving to 2:01.27 on 21 March, this time Bisset front-ran her way to a 2:00.48, 0.02 under the qualifying mark for the World Championships. She continues to race, and beat, strong opposition; on this occasion she was followed in by Georgia Griffith, season’s best of 2:01.26, and Olympic 4x400m finalist Morgan Mitchell, personal best of 2:01.60.
“I’m a real runner – not just a club runner any more,” Bisset told on-field announcer Tamsyn Manou.
Luke Mathews proved the tactical master of a 1500m final which brought together three of Australlia’s recent best in Mathews, Ryan Gregson and Matthew Ramsden. Always near the lead in a slow first 800m (2:08 pace), Mathews was well-placed to respond when the other fancied pair started to move up. He picked up with Ramsden through the first half of the final lap before sprinting away to win comfortably in 3:43.15. Gregson was best of the rest in 3:44.03 as Ramsden fell back to fourth behind Rorey Hunter.
Barber, Mitchell, Anang, Stratton and Denny stand out in field
Kelsey-Lee Barber again defeated last year’s world leader Kathryn Mitchell in the javelin. Both were beyond the World Championships qualifying line with Barber producing a best of 63.33m and Mitchell 62.78m.
Naa Anang completed a rare 100m-long jump double. The 24-year-old won the sprint on Saturday with a personal best of 11.32, then returned to competition on Sunday with an even better performance. She produced legal jumps of 6.81m (another personal best) and 6.76m, in addition to her winning wind-assisted 6.88m. Brooke Stratton’s best was 6.70m.
Australia is likely to have two men’s high jumpers in Doha with Joel Baden clearing 2.30m to win on Saturday night, booking him a place in the team alongside Brandon Starc.
Matt Denny, the 2013 world U18 champion in the discus, has been chasing the world qualifier of 65.00m all season and on Saturday night he caught up with it with his final throw of the domestic season, a 65.28m effort which guarantees his selection for Doha.
Finally, one to note for future reference is the precocious young Sasha Zhoya, who set a world U18 and 16-year-old best of 5.56m in the pole vault on the opening day of the championships last Monday (1 April).
Len Johnson for the IAAF