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Solomon stand-out on Olympic debut

5 August 2012

ATHLETICS: Rising Australian star Steve Solomon justified his inclusion in the men’s 400m by winning his London 2012 Olympic Games heat on the morning of Day 8 and advancing to the semi-finals.

Solomon blasted around the Olympic Stadium in a personal best 45.18 seconds. Sadly in the race defending champion LaShawn Merritt, of the USA, injured himself.

It was the perfect answer to critics of the 19-year-old’s inclusion in the individual event despite not running an A qualifying time.

A third-placing at the World Junior Championships last month convinced athletics selectors Solomon’s form and talent warranted the chance to run at the Olympics and he repaid their faith in full.

“I executed my race plan as I wanted to and made sure I didn’t get caught up in any emotions,” Solomon said.

“The crowd went absolutely off their head. It was really exciting but I just blocked out the emotions and ran my own race and it paid dividends today.”

With Merritt unable to finish the race, Solomon powered to the line ahead of Lalonde Gordon of Trinidad and Tobago and Great Britain’s Conrad Williams in the eighth fastest time of the day.

“That gives me a seeded lane draw for the semis so that extra bit of effort, it was worth it,” the Sydneysider said.

Solomon’s run highlighted Australia’s Day 8 morning session, which saw Alana Boyd qualify for Monday’s women’s pole vault final, after sneaking through with some clutch jumps.

Boyd, the Australian record holder, passed at 4.10m, went over 4.25m on her first attempt, and cleared 4.40m and 4.50m on her third attempts.

The 28-year-old then launched herself over the bar at 4.55m on her second attempt, to finish qualifying in 11th place and earn a place in the final.

Swirling winds and cool conditions made it difficult for the pole vaulters to perform near their best but Boyd was happy to have kept her medal chances alive after missing the final at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2011 athletics world championships in Daegu.

“I didn’t exactly make it easy on myself with third attempts but I’m rapt and looking forward to Monday night,” she said.

“Monday night is a new day and I know I have a lot better jumps in me. Half the battle is getting through the heats into the final and I’m excited to see what I can do.

“There are a lot of positives to take out of today. I fought to get into the final, it wasn’t easy, and I’ve shown and proved to myself that I can do that.

“I’ve got nothing to lose and I’m just going to make it happen.”

Boyd’s teammate and training partner Liz Parnov had a disappointing competition, with the 18-year-old missing three attempts at 4.10m, including running through on her final attempt.

She clearly struggled in the tough conditions.

On the track, Genevieve LaCaze celebrated her 23rd birthday in style with a personal best and ninth place run in her 3000m steeplechase heat.

Making her Olympic Games debut, LaCaze clocked 9:37.90, staying with the pack until the final 600m but finding it tough to keep in touch as the pace increased in the final two laps.

“It’s my best birthday ever,” the University of Florida-based runner said.

“I know there’s a lot more in the tank, but it just didn’t come today. But a PB’s a PB.

“I’ve got a lot of work to do but there’s still time and I’m still on the uphill climb.”

Three Australians will be in the hunt for medals at tonight’s athletics session.

2009 world champion Dani Samuels will contest the women’s discus final and Mitchell Watt and Henry Frayne have strong claims in the men’s long jump final.

Brendan Cole and Tristan Thomas will be running for places in the men’s 400m hurdles final and Ben St Lawrence will contest the men’s 10,000m final.

David Moase

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