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Thornton stars on Athletics night 1

20 August 2014

ATHLETICS: Sydney runner Jessica Thornton laid down the Australian performance of the night at the first Youth Olympic Games Athletics session in Nanjing, China.

Thornton’s 52.78s to win the women’s 400m smashed her personal best time of 53.90s. It was also the second fastest junior 400m time in the world this year.

“It was great! I wasn’t that confident with the heat going in, but as soon as I was practicing on those blocks I just felt great getting off those starts,” Thornton said.

Thornton flew out of the blocks in lane six but had Granadan Meleni Rodney on her tail down the back straight. By the 200m mark, Rodney had overtaken the Aussie, but a great bend from Thornton gave her confidence to push hard down the home straight.

“First hundred metres I just went out hard as I planned then just cruised the back a bit, paced myself then the last hundred just smashed it.”

Thornton ran clear and took the honours over the line in the fastest heat of the night and goes into the A final on Saturday as the fastest qualifier.

In Australia’s only field event of the night, Shemaiah James had a great performance in the high jump. Leaping towards the Olympic flame held high above the Youth Olympic Stadium, a pumped up James cleared 2.07m on his second attempt. James was only the second athlete to clear the height, and while he did not reach the 2.10m height which a handful of his opponents reached, he made the top eight and will be in the A final.

“I got a bit nervous, they’re big things to take in all at once. After I got a few jumps in I got a bit more confident in what I was doing, I just had to execute it,” said the Queenslander.

“I just wanted to make finals, that was my main goal, now I’m just trying to beat my PB.”

Four hundred metre runner Michael Mullett and hurdler Rachel Pace were incredibly unlucky to miss the A finals, both missing the eight-person cut-off by one position.

Mullett was an inspired man out of the blocks trying to emulate the feat of his teammate Thornton. He ran a good bend and pushed hard through the home straight but could not shake fourth place. His time of 48.24s in a quick heat saw him just miss a spot in the A final by 0.11 secs.

“[Out there] I’m just backing myself and all the training I’ve done, hoping I’ve put in all the hard work,” he said.

“It’s amazing! As soon as I stepped out into that stadium it all became real, it was great to be a part of that atmosphere, I loved every bit of it.”

Pace lined up in the opening sprint of the Games, the women’s 100m hurdles. Racing from Lane seven, Pace recorded a time of 13.83, just shy of her personal best time 13.49 to dead heat for third with Japan’s Nana Fujimori.

“It was a really incredible experience being in front of the whole crowd, having people cheer you on and running against some of the best athletes in the world, it’s just an amazing experience.”

Unfortunately, Pace was not quick enough to make the top eight from the three heats who would enter the A final on Saturday morning. Instead, she qualified ninth and will be the fastest qualifier in the B final.

“It’s really intense being in the blocks and waiting for them to hush the crowd, it’s really hard to focus and get your head where it needs to be, I think it got to me a bit,” Pace said.

Male hurdler Nick Andrews raced outside his personal best time of 13.45 and came fifth in his heat in a time of 13.92.

“I reckon I went pretty well it was a good first run, whatever final I get into, I’m just going to try my hardest and try and improve my time,” the Sydneysider said.

“Between the set and the gun going off... that took forever. I was just like, when are they going to do it?”

In the women’s 800m, Alina Tape faced a classy pack of racers. Germany’s Mareen Kalis finished first with a PB of 2:05.67. Tape did well to make up ground over the final 100m to pull herself into fourth place after tailing the lead pack of four for most of the race. Tape clocked 2:11.36, outside her personal best of 2:07.85.

“The atmosphere out there was amazing!” Tape said.

“It’s something I’ve always dreamed of, wearing the green and gold for Australia and to finally do that tonight is a pretty good feeling.”

Tomorrow night will see a large group of Aussie athletes take to the track and field.

Some of the features include our two hammer throwers, Alex Hulley and Ned Weatherly, Nicole Robinson in the women’s High Jump as well as our 100m sprinters, Trae Williams and Sam Geddes.

Taya Conomos and Sam Rawlings

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