Aussie athletes in great form at Birmingham Diamond League
20 August 2018
ATHLETICS: The Birmingham Diamond League has been the centre of personal bests and broken records for several Australian athletics stars, who have qualified for the Diamond League finals.
At the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, Aussie highlights included an Australian women's 1000m record to Brittany McGowan, a 1-2 in the men's mile with Stewart McSweyn and Ryan Gregson and a significant personal best in the high jump by Brandon Starc.
The stadium where the Commonwealth Games will be held in four years was the setting of the resumption of the 2018 Diamond League circuit, ahead of the two finals in Zurich (30 August) and Brussels (31 August).
In personal best 800m form this year and strong over 1500m, the national 1000m record certainly looked in the grasp of Queensland’s McGowan. In a very strong field, the pace was on from the start with the field strung out and McGowan near the tail of the field for most of the race.
“The pace was set to be very fast so I judged myself off that and wanted to run my own race,” said a jubilant McGowan, who picked off a number of athletes as she steamed home to claim the record in a time of 2:37.80, just under Zoe Buckman’s old mark of 2:37.84.
“I am so happy to get the Australian record today.”
For McGowan, the season started way back in February at the Commonwealth Games trials when she set an 800m PB of 2:00.24.
“It’s been a really long season so it’s great to have some good races left in my legs.”
After a lean 2017, Starc’s 2018 campaign continues to dazzle, both by height and place, with the Commonwealth Games champion compiling a momentous series of performances and in this form the 21-year-old national record of 2.36m was under threat.
In Birmingham, the New South Welshman raised his PB by one centimetre to 2.33m with a second up clearance for the win, before passing 2.36m to take three attempts at 2.37m. Starc was on his second trip to Europe this season.
“I arrived into the UK on Monday to have a couple days to get over the jet lag and I think it was a great decision,” Starc said.
“A PB and a diamond league win, can’t complain with that. Great start to this European trip!”
An understatement by Starc whose leap was the best by an Australian for 21 years and elevated him to equal seventh in the world this year.
It was highly likely that McSweyn would continue his barnstorming personal best season in the Emsley Carr mile in Birmingham. However for the Tasmanian to defeat his training partner Gregson and a win the race would have been long odds. He was too good though and clocked 3:54.60 to slice more than one second from his PB.
We know he is strong in the 5000m, 10,000m and steeplechase, but his form over the shorter distance has been a surprise this calendar year.
“It is only the second time I have ever officially run the distance,” McSweyn said, about his performance which moved him up to number 11 Australian all-time.
“I have never raced here before so it was going to be a good experience no matter what, but to perform well and get a PB I am pretty happy with that.”
Gregson was only half a second back in 3:55.10 and Jordy Williamsz (VIC), the third member of the Melbourne Track Club squad, was sixth in 3:56.92.
The Australians claimed a few impressive scalps including two-time Olympic 1500m medallist Nick Willis (NZL) and Olympic 5000m medallist Paul Chelimo (KEN).
Maybe a little rusty, but Henry Frayne (QLD) competing in the non-Diamond League long jump event, still managed to maintain his most consistent season of his career, with his ninth consecutive eight metre competition.
“A slightly disappointing result today with 8.01m for third,” Frayne said.
“Conditions were okay, atmosphere was pretty good and my body felt good, however I just didn’t have much spring in my legs. I can only really put it down to the funny mid-season break I have had due to the European Championships being run.
"I hope that this competition will just act as a blow out before Zurich and Ostrava in the next few weeks, which was the plan, and that I’ll return to jumping some bigger jumps in the coming weeks.”
Consistency is the word that would also define the late European season form of national steeplechase record holder Genevieve LaCaze (QLD). In her last three races, all at 3000m, she has run 8:50.02, 8:50.09 and 8:50.19 – the later for 13th place in Birmingham. All three marks are under her pre-2018 PB of 8:52.
In the race, LaCaze was just off the lead pack until the penultimate lap, when the kick down started. She did well to run on for a near PB.
In the wash-up of the results, the following is the status for the Australians chasing berths in the Diamond League finals:
Qualified: McSweyn (TAS) 5000m, Brooke Stratton (VIC) and Henry Frayne (QLD) in long jump; Kurtis Marschall (WA) in the pole vault, Kelsey Barber (ACT) in the javelin and high jumper Starc (NSW).
Linden Hall (VIC) and Ryan Gregson (VIC) both went close but will miss 1500m berths.
Full results can be found HERE