Rellie Kaputin, in the horizontal jumps, completed a rare double for Papua New Guinea and Jacko Gill won the shot put for New Zealand – but this pair stood against an Australian wave swamping day three (27) of the Oceania Championships in Townsville.
Kaputin upset Brooke Stratton and Naa Anang in the long jump on the first day of competition and defeated two other Australians – Ellen Pettit and Aliyah Johnson – to win the triple jump. The quality of opposition may not have been as high, but Kaputin’s best effort of 13.04m saw her finish 10 centimetres clear of Pettit who, in turn, had seven centimetres to spare over Johnson.
Kaputin will compete in the high jump on the final day of competition where she will possibly not be favourite, but if momentum counts for anything could yet be a threat.
Gill bettered his own championship record in taking the shot put gold medal with a distance of 20.75m, just 26 centimetres shy of his personal best of 21.01m, set in January 2017.
Australian wave finally breaks
Kaputin, Gill and a handful of minor medals notwithstanding, day three belonged to the hosts. The Australian wave that had been predicted to wash over the championships finally broke, sweeping aside pretty well everything in its path.
Of the 27 individual track medals contested on the day, Australia took 23 and won both 4x100m relays. It was closer in the remaining four events – the heptathlon and three field events – but even there the hosts won two of the four and six medals out of 11 overall to five for the rest (gold medallist Kiara Reddingius of Australia and Christina Ryan of New Zealand were the only two to complete the heptathlon).
One of Australia’s winners was Catriona Bisset in the women’s 800m and, like Gill, she finds success as she nears her mid-20s. Gill, 25 later in the year, is coming back from injury and attempting to regain the form which took him, successively, to world U20, U18 and U20 titles and then to eighth place at the 2015 World Championships in the first phase of his career.
By contrast, 25-year-old Bisset is finding success for the first time. A talented youngster, she has related this year how anxiety and other problems, stalled her development. She is making up for it in a hurry now, winning her national championship and then becoming the first Australian woman since Tamsyn Manou in 2008 (and many other years) to break two minutes for the 800m.
Gill faced a potentially tough opponent in Damien Birkinhead, but his 20.75m gave him over a metre to spare over the Australian’s best of 19.55m. Another Kiwi, Ryan Ballantyne, took the bronze with 19.05m.
Bisset won the 800m in 2:02.16, not an overly impressive time, but what stood out was the way she controlled the race. She has front-run to most of her victories this season, but this time she went out a little more slowly. It didn’t matter.
“I think everyone expected me to lead,” she said, “so they basically pushed me to the front.” After going through in 1:01.65, she ran a negative split to come home in 2:02.16, well clear of New Zealand’s Angela Petty and Morgan Mitchell.
Bisset is coached by Peter Fortune, coach of Cathy Freeman. Her primary goal at the start of this season was the World University Games, but her horizons have expanded. She is already selected for the World Championships.
“I had a couple of good performances and my coach said, ‘I think we should have some bigger goals’.”
Of her rapid progress, Bisset said, “Sometimes it feels like a shock, but looking back, there has been a lot of signs, some sessions and races which felt easy.
“But it has still been a big change,” she added.
Joshua Ralph made it an Australian double, taking the men’s title in 1:49.34 from teammate Mason Cohen and New Zealand’s Brad Mathas, who is Melbourne-based and trains with Joseph Deng and Peter Bol.
There were further home doubles in the 400m hurdles – Sarah Klein in 56.07 and Ian Dewhurst, 50.79, and the 3000m steeplechase – Paige Campbell narrowly from Georgia Whincup, 9:46.40 to 9:46.51, and Ben Buckingham in 8:41.15. Marathoner Sinead Diver ran a credible 32:25.86 in the warm daylight conditions to win the women’s 10,000m.
Australia dominated the flat 400m, too, with Steve Solomon taking the men’s race in 46.12 and 19-year-old Bendere Oboya the women’s in 52.76. Solomon, an Olympic finalist in 2012 as a junior, is rebuilding his career after a frustrating run of injuries.
The championships conclude tomorrow (28 June) with 11 gold medals to be contested in senior events.
Len Johnson for the IAAF