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Samuels, Mickle and Breen star in Sydney

11 March 2013

ATHLETICS: Dani Samuels (NSW), Kim Mickle (WA) and Melissa Breen (ACT) were the stars in Sydney on Saturday night with all three London 2012 Olympians recording IAAF World Championships A-Qualifiers at the 2013 Sydney Track Classic. 

Enjoying her best result since the Doha Diamond League in May 2010, Samuels’ flawless series included five A-Qualifiers for the IAAF World Championships later this year. Samuels opened her account with 62.19m, before improving to 64.06m and her winning mark of 64.46m in round three. Continuing with 63.65m, Samuels threw 60.74m in round five and yet another big throw of 63.50m to close. Second place went to Taryn Gollshewsky (Qld, 54.79m), with Kim Mulhall (Vic, 54.70m) third. 

The 2009 world champion and a finalist at the London Olympic Games, Samuels’ winning mark of 64.46m is her fourth best throw ever and her second biggest in Australia behind her personal best of 65.84m set at Sydney Olympic Park three years ago. Samuels credits a new training regime and the continued ability to relax in the circle as the main reasons for this stellar effort at the first leg of the Qantas Australian Athletics Tour.

“I had a really good series out there, not just a good throw and the result is one of my best for quite some time. My goal for this year was to throw 64 metres at every domestic competition and this is hopefully the start of that,” Samuels, who is coached by Denis Knowles, said. 

“Physically I am in great shape. I feel strong, fast and explosive. I’ve stripped a bit of weight through good training. The trajectory of my throws is better than it has been, I’ve improved on that a lot, and it’s good to reap rewards from hard work."

Also performing well in the women’s throws was IAAF World Championships finalist Mickle (WA) and Olympic champion Valerie Adams (NZL) in the javelin and shot put respectively. 

Improving on the 58.74m she threw to win at the Adelaide Track Classic last month, Mickle’s winning performance of 62.53m is her fifth best throw ever. It is her first IAAF World Championships A-Qualifier and sets her up for automatic selection if she can win the national title next month. Mickle, who unbelievably snapped a javelin mid-competition, hit 58.31m with her first attempt, before continuing her series with 59.55m, 55.90m, 58.34m, 57.53m and her winning mark to close.

Adams, who boasts an international resume that includes the last three IAAF world titles and a pair of Olympic crowns, was the most lauded athlete on the start lists. Her best mark of 20.02m in round five had the crowd on their feet, with her series also including 19.45m, 19.97m, 19.92m, 19.79m and a foul. 

The Olympic debutant Breen’s start in the short sprint was electric, with the 22-year-old surging to take an early lead in the women’s 100m. Challenged in the middle stages by Elly Graf (NSW, second, 11.76) and Ashleigh Whittaker (Vic, third, 11.80), Breen broke away to cross the line in a personal best time of 11.25 (w: +0.3). The performance moves her to sixth on the Australian All-Time List and is her first IAAF World Championships A-Qualifier. If she wins the national crown in Sydney (NSW) next month, she will be automatically selected to compete with the Australian Flame in August. 

Breen then returned to the track to win the women’s 200m in a personal best time of 23.12 (w: +0.4). Her time in the 200m is an IAAF World Championships B-Qualifier and sets her up for a possible selection in the sprint double in Moscow. 

“After going through what I did last year, this was always the plan. I haven’t missed a training session since London and without sounding a bit weird I sort of expected these times because I’ve done all the work and knew that I was capable. It’s just so exciting and I'm very happy,” Breen, who is coached by Matt Beckenham, said.

Breen’s run was not to be outdone by local favourite Tim Leathart (NSW). The winner of the men’s 100m at the Sydney Track Classic last year, Leathart again took line honours in an 0.15 second personal best of 10.24 (w: +2.0) from Josh ‘the Boss’ Ross (Vic, second, 10.25) and Calesio Newman (USA, third, 10.29). 

Ross then rebounded in the final race of the night to win the 200m (20.65) from Newman (20.69) and Leathart was third (20.71) in another fast race (0.2ms). Sydney junior star Nicholas Hough was fifth in 20.86 seconds to back up from his fourth Australian and 10.45 in the 100m. 

In the men’s 1500m, 2008 Olympic silver medallist Nick Willis (NZL) edged past Australian record holder Ryan Gregson (NSW, second, 3:35.25) to win in an IAAF World Championships A-Qualifier of 3:34.68. Gregson’s time is faster than the 3:35.42 he ran at the 2010 Sydney Track Classic to become his best ever performance on home soil. Highlighting the form he enters this year with, Gregson that same year improved the 19-year-old Australian 1500m record of Simon Doyle when clocking 3:31.06 in Monaco. 

“Collis was in that race tonight to help me and Nick out,” Gregson said. “It worked for him, and I was just off. It was different from the way I like to run. My coach Nic (Bideau) said that if Collis is starting to slow down with 300m to go then I should go. If I wanted to win the race I would have stuck with him and made a move with 80m to go but I needed to run as fast as I could today and the end result is good, my third fastest 1500m time. 

“The three months of training in October, November and December for a distance runner decide next year. If you don’t have a good pre-season you are always playing catch up and unlike the last three years I come into this year well prepared and I don’t think I will be exposed later in the year for being a little off where I wanted to be.”

In the women’s event, 2012 Olympian Zoe Buckman (ACT) improved on her second placed performance in Hobart to take line honours in the women’s 1500m in 4:08.84. Second placed was IAAF World Championships 800m hopeful Kelly Hetherington (Vic), who clocked a personal best 4:10.55. 

The outstanding season for of Paralympic silver medal winner Carlee Beattie (Qld) also continued, with the dual IPC World Championships medallist again eclipsing her own world record to set a new personal best of 6.01m (w: +0.8). Her first jump beyond the magic six metre mark, Beattie, who is an F46 arm amputee, has now twice improved the world record for the long jump in her Paralympic class this year after a massive 5.93m at the Adelaide Track Classic. 

In other highlights:
Steve Lewis (GBR) won the men’s pole vault with a leap of 5.55m, with Brad Walker (USA) second and Steve Hooker (WA) third. Both Hooker and Lewis cleared 5.40m. The trio will now migrate west for the Go for 2&5 Perth Track Classic next Saturday 16 March.

Michael Cochrane (NZL) won the men’s 400m hurdles in a personal best time of 50.07, while Olympic semi-finalist and Australian Flame Lauren Boden (ACT) won the women’s event in 56.99.

Youcef Abdi (NSW) won the men’s 3000m steeplechase in 8:36.33 after overtaking James Nipperess (NSW, second, 8:37.68) in the closing stages.

After clocking IAAF World Championships 20km race walk A-Qualifiers in Hobart two weeks ago, Tanya Holliday (SA) and Dane Bird-Smith (Qld) won the women’s and men’s 5000m walk in 21:21.51 and 19:28.67 respectively.

• Western Australian hurdler Shannon McCann won the 100m hurdles in an impressive 13.36 seconds with Olympic champion Sally Pearson not competing due to injury.

Athletics Australia and AOC

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