Fabrice Lapierre in action at the Australian Championships in Sydney (Getty Images) © Copyright
Report Sydney, Australia

Lapierre soars to Australian title as Stratton books Rio spot

Fabrice Lapierre said he felt a little rusty on the runway at the Australian Championships in Sydney, but the world silver medallist took only one jump to iron out any kinks.

After an opening-round foul, Lapierre sped down the runway for his second jump, hit the board perfectly and landed in the sand 8.27m away.

Lapierre then continued with 8.09m, 8.20m, 8.10m and passed on his final attempt, and with a series like that, he should prove a formidable, well-oiled jumping machine by the time the rust is fully shaken off in the coming months.

"I can’t complain about this," said Lapierre. "I was flat out there, I didn’t jump like I wanted to so I am happy with that. It was funny. I almost missed the call room today. I woke up at like 10:10 and was like: I have to hurry up. I slept 11 hours last night, just made it in time and have come away with this. I’m looking forward to feeling fresh and excited, and enjoying this.

“I can’t explain how motivated I am for Rio. It’s the only medal I don’t have and I would love to get it and finish my career, whenever that is, with every medal available.”

Lapierre was no shock winner, given his consistent form on the way to, and at, the World Indoor Championships in Portland. The pleasant surprise, however, was the return of Olympic long and triple jump representative Henry Frayne who, with few competitions since and only a low-key outing this year, produced jumps of 8.15m and 8.16m either side of the mid-competition break to also exceed the Olympic standard.

Stratton's star continues to rise

In the women's long jump, Brooke Stratton proved her career remains firmly in the ascendancy. The 22-year-old cleared 7.05m in Perth a month ago to break Bronwyn Thompson’s Oceanian record. She was then just outside the medals in Portland. Stratton won the women’s long jump with 6.68m over the weekend and is now also guaranteed a place in Rio.

The first tranche of the Australian Olympic team nominations will be announced at a Gala dinner on Sunday night, with up to 35 names ticked off by the Australian Olympic Committee. Only event winners with a qualifying performance are guaranteed selection at this first stage, though those with a qualifier like Frayne, who finished second to another qualifier, are also likely to be named straight away.

Given Alana Boyd’s dominance of the pole vault domestically, she is also unlikely to be asked to wait any longer.

In the women's high jump, world finalist Eleanor Patterson survived an early miss at her opening height of 1.83m and was shaky on the second, but she cleared 1.87m and 1.90m at the first time of asking to wrap up her position.

New Zealand’s Nneka Okpara set a national record of 13.91m in winning the women’s triple jump.

Clarke absent as Hartmann does the double

Joshua Clarke, the only Australian to have a qualifying mark in the men’s or women’s 100m, missed the championships with a hamstring strain, leaving Queenslander Alex Hartmann in good position for a sprint double.

Hartmann duly seized the moment, winning the 100m on Saturday night in 10.35 before doubling back on Sunday to beat Samoa's Jeremy Dodson in the 200m, 20.49 to 20.62. He is Rio-bound in the longer event.

Last year's world semi-finalist Ella Nelson opted for the 200m only and won the title in 22.59. Also on the plane, she is likely to be joined by teenager Jessica Thornton who finished second in 23.27. Thornton, 18 this year, is also likely to be offered a spot in the already-qualified 4x400m after finishing second in the 400m the previous evening.

Morgan Mitchell, who has been taking everything in her stride this season, won the 400m in 51.84 to ensure her nomination.

Olympic finalist Steve Solomon bounced back to form in the men’s 400m, but not quite to his brilliant best. In his first serious outing of the season, he clocked 45.50 to miss the Rio standard by just 0.10. With the performances behind Solomon, the men’s relay hopes went from virtually nil to something, but the issue will be finding a race to achieve a top-16 time.

Matthews and Gregson a class apart

Luke Matthews continued his amazing progress when he won the 800m title on Saturday night and will be on his way to Rio. The 20-year-old was also awarded the inaugural Ron Clarke Scholarship by ex-athletes’ association Athletics International.

Gregson, meanwhile, continued his great season with a 3:37.76 win in the 1500m from Jordan Gusman and Adam Pyke.

The women’s race did not produce any clarity on selection. No one has achieved the 800m standard to date, and no one did here, though Brittany McGowan put herself in pole position with a win before they all head off to chase the time.

Similarly, Heidi See retained her 1500m title in 4:14.17 ahead of Linden Hall and Jenny Blundell. Zoe Buckman, who has an Olympic qualifier, finished fifth, while Melissa Duncan did not run.

In the absence of Sally Pearson, Michelle Jenneke clinched her Olympic place with a 12.93 win in the 100m hurdles. "It’s so good to finally get under 13," said Jenneke. "I’ve been really close this season, and I’m just so happy to be able to get the time and come away with the win."

After throwing 64.91m in qualifying, Dani Samuels won yet another women’s discus title with a best of 63.44m. Madeline Hills won the steeplechase in 9:38.63 ahead of Australia’s other two qualifiers, Genevieve LaCaze and Victoria Mitchell.

Finally, Celeste Mucci and Alex Diamond will be added to the team for the IAAF World U20 Championships Bydgoszcz 2016 after winning the combined events titles.

Len Johnson for the IAAF