Glasgow Commonwealth Games Athletics Wrap

19th August 2014

The Glasgow Commonwealth Games are now but a memory and for those athletes who had a taste of Games competition and want some more; they will already be planning their programs for 2020 when the Games come to the Gold Coast.

All of the track & field limelight seemed to be hogged by the Sally Pearson v Eric Hollingsworth incident.

Eric criticised Sally for not fulfilling her captain’s role effectively, by not attending a team camp leading into the Games. Given Sally’s disrupted competitive build-up due to a long running hamstring problem, she chose to run at a meet in London rather than attend the camp. The timing of Eric’s criticism on the day of Sally’s first race was totally inappropriate and was ineffective in detracting from Sally’s performance as she went on to easily defend her Commonwealth title in a time of 12.67, comfortably defeating Tiffany Porter from England.

Pearson has the potential to dominate hurdling for a further four years until she runs in her hometown at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2020, provided that she can remain injury free. Given Sally’s recent spate of injuries, that could be a difficult task.

The Aussie Games’ highlight for me was the gold medal performance, in an 8 seconds personal best for Michael Shelley in the Men’s Marathon in a time of 2:11.15, defeating Stephen Chemlany of Kenya ranked #14 in the world in 2014 with his best this season of 2.06.24 and Abraham Kiplimo of Uganda.

To take on the Africans and come out on top in a marathon is a rare occurrence. The composure and determination shown by Shelley to win after being back 12 seconds at the 20k mark is a credit to his self-belief and preparation.

The marathons were a ‘Personal Bestathon’ for our Aussie distance runners where five of our six competitors ran PB’s.

Jess Trengrove’s bronze medal winning performance in the Women’s marathon was in the personal best time of 2:30.12 and team mates Melanie Panayiotu and Sarah Klein also PB’d in 2.35.01 and 2.35.21. Liam Adams PB’d in the Men’s marathon in 2.13.49.

Two major areas of concern for Athletics Australia would be the general non-performance of our men’s team and, with the exception of Sally Pearson, the non-competitiveness of most of our athletes on the track.

It was in the Women’s field events where we dominated.

Kim Mickle is proving her stature as a truly world ranked Women’s Javelin thrower winning gold with a Commonwealth Games record throw of 65.96m beating the defending champion Sunnette Viljoen from South Africa. Not far behind, winning bronze was 22 year old Kelsey-Lee Roberts from the ACT with 62.95m.

Alana Boyd defended her Women’s Pole Vault gold in deplorable conditions; conditions so poor that the medallist were the only competitors to clear a height.

With the rain teaming down, vaulter after vaulter failed to clear their opening height and it took Alana Boyd three attempts to clear her first height of 4.15m. Boyd in previous years would not have had the mental toughness to overcome the difficult conditions but this is one particular area that maturity and hard training has improved for her.

Boyd thrived after her stumble at the opening height to have first up clearances at 4.35m, 4.40 & 4.50m to dominate the event, much to the delight of her Commonwealth Games gold medal winning parents Ray & Denise, who were watching from the stadium.

Dani Samuels was dominant in the discus and she has had a renaissance year in 2014, returning to be a real power in the world rankings. Her throw of 64.88m in the conditions was over 3 metres clear of the silver medallist. Dani has certainly surpassed the form she exhibited as a 21 year old to win the World Championships in Berlin in 2009.

With a gold medal jump of 1.94m in the Women’s High Jump, World Youth Champion from 2013 Eleanor Patterson displayed what a talent Australia has. The 18 year old from Victoria put her Higher School Certificate studies on hold to blitz the field in her first senior international competition. Athletics Australia needs to ensure that her preparation is patient so that she is nurtured along to realise the potential that she has to be a world ranked high jumper.

Our own Eloise Wellings, getting back to international competition after becoming a mum, finished 5th in the Women’s 5000m in a season’s best time of 15.14.99.

Our only Men’s medal winning performance inside the stadium was a bronze to 23 year old Tasmanian, Hamish Peacock in the Javelin, with a highly respectable 81.75m.

From a personal perspective, one performance of note after a trying start to his senior career in Glasgow was Decathlete Jake Steins’ continuation in the competition after breaking twice in the first event - the 100m. After being provided with zero points for this performance Jake continued to finish the Decathlon, stringing some handy performances together in the remaining nine events. He certainly is a talent but needs to work on his speed if he is to be a contender at the senior level.

The greatest disappointment for Glasgow was that the normal haul of medals for Australia was denied with the walking events not being contested.

Athletics Australia and many of our athletes will need to do some soul searching after Glasgow. They will need to appoint a new High Performance Manager with Eric Hollingsworth’s demise. More importantly they will need to look at where their focus should be and at the moment it appears that the focus should be on field events, as it is in the field where Australia is achieving at a world level.

The bar needs to be raised by our athletes on the track (except for Sally) and generally by our men and I know I keep harping, but we certainly need to look at our obsession for selecting relay teams with athletes who have not qualified in the individual sprints. Our performance in Glasgow shows that this policy is not providing a haul of medals and in my view is dampening the standard of sprinting in Australia.

Peter Hadfield OAM is an Olympian who Represented Australia in two Olympic Games and two Commonwealth Games, winning a Commonwealth Games Silver medal behind Olympic Champion and World Record Holder Daley Thompson. As well as working as a TV and radio commentator and motivational speaker, Peter provides training programs for sporting teams and individuals.