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World Challenge stars shine in Melbourne

The future of Australian athletics looked to be in safe hands at the IAAF Qantas Melbourne World Challenge, writes Simone McInnes.

Korir in the 5000mConditions could not have been more perfect at Lakeside Stadium for the first meet of the IAAF World Challenge series last Saturday afternoon. Despite a noticeable lack of World Championship ‘A’ qualifiers, athletes impressed one of the largest crowds at a Victorian athletics event in recent years.

The international athletes certainly earned their appearance fees, with Greg Rutherford (GBR) prevailing over Australia’s Mitchell Watt in the long jump. In what was the most highly anticipated event of the night, Rutherford jumped 8.10 metres, besting Watt’s best jump of 8.01 metres. Fabrice Lapierre (AUS) took out the bronze medal, coming agonisingly close to the magical eight metre barrier with 7.99 metres.

“I didn’t think I would jump as well as I did today. 8.10 metres isn’t anything special but we’re in an early part of the year and waking up this morning I didn’t expect to be jumping that good to be honest,” Rutherford told the Herald Sun.

Justin Gaymon, winner of the 400 metre hurdles, was the only athlete to produce an ‘A’ qualifier by recording an impressive time of 49.34 seconds. The American also pushed Australia’s Tristan Thomas to a ‘B’ qualifier, who ran second in 49.60 seconds.

“I’m really happy. It has been a tough season after opening at 51.90. The times haven’t looked great but I have known that it has been there based on my training,” Thomas said.

Asafa Powell’s replacement, America’s Wallace Spearmon, impressed in the Peter Norman 200 metres but failed to beat six time national champion Josh Ross and Stawell Gift runner up Mitchell Williams-Swain over the 100 metres.

“I was brought out here to run the 100m and they asked me if I wanted to run the double and I’m pretty glad I chose to. It turned out to be my better race, and I am very aware of the history of this event in Australia because of Peter Norman so it’s an honour to win,” Spearmon said.

Ross edged out Williams-Swain in a photo finish, both recording the same time of 10.25 seconds.

World Cross Country Champion Japhet Korir again showed the class of the Kenyans, comfortably winning the men’s 5000m in 13:31.94 minutes. Liam Adams (AUS) ran a stellar last lap to pick up second place, showing his own form from the recent World Cross Country Championships.

In the women’s events, Toea Wisil from Papua New Guinea took out both the 100 metres and 200 metres. Her time of 11.41 seconds in the 100 metres was a new personal best and came just shy of Papua New Guinea’s national record.

New Zealand’s Susan Kuijken led home a large number of up and coming Australian athletes in the 1500 metres, whilst the 800 metres was taken out by Australia’s Kelly Hetherington. Hetherington was a class above her competitors, but still managed to clock 2:02:31 – a new personal best.

Next week a number of these athletes will compete at the Australian National Championships to again attempt to secure their spot on the Australian World Championships team.


Simone McInnes is a third-year Sport Journalism/Psychology student at La Trobe University. You can follow her on Twitter: @McSimone.

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