New release – Athletics Australia

The Melbourne Track Classic kicks off a busy week of three high performance meets in Victoria and Queensland, as the athletes finalise their competition programs ahead of the Australian Track and Field Championships in April in Sydney.

Thursday night’s Melbourne Track Classic will host the 2021 debut of Australia’s equal best men’s athlete at the 2019 World Championships – discus thrower Matt Denny.

Men’s discus throw

A year ago in Wellington New Zealand, discus thrower  Denny (Ben Thomson) had just thrown a personal best of 65.47m and was in a career purple patch. Following his silver medal in the hammer throw at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Denny had turned his focus to the discus. After a strong build up in the winter of 2018, he won the 2019 National title with a four-year discus best throw of 65.28m.

It set up his outstanding 2019 year where he achieved remarkable consistency with five throws over 65 metres. That ability to throw regularly near his PB and performance when it counts extended into the Doha World Championships where he placed sixth. Only once previously at a major championships had an Australian placed that high, when Benn Harradine placed fifth at the 2011 World Championships. In early 2020, Denny was in good form, highlighted by his PB in New Zealand. He started his 2020/21 campaign in December with a couple of solid 63 metre throws, but then unfortunately hurt two ribs and strained his right Costochondral joint which put an end to his season. But now in March he is back and ready to throw again.

South Australian Daniel Kirk (Phil Nettle) looks on target to break his own F44 Oceania record. He set the discus record of 52.16m in 2017 when placing seventh at the World Para-Athletics Championships, and this season has already thrown 52.15m and exceeded the Tokyo B qualifying standard of 50.39m on seven occasions.

Women’s 400m

A quality race with two sub-52 athletes and a junior running mid 52s. Bendere Oboya (John Quinn) is in incredible form this summer. After a series of 52 second races, the World Championships semi-finalist broke through with 51.61 at the NSW Championships – the second fastest Australian time on home soil for 12 years. Teenager Ellie Beer (Brett Robinson) was also in top shape last week running 52.81 in her state championships – her third fastest 400m of her career. 

Bella O’Grady (Penny Gillies) is easing back into competition after injury. In 2019 she surprised clocking a time of 51.87 at the World University Games where she made the final and won a medal in the relay. She then competed at the 2019 World Championships, but since she has only run once, earlier this month, at the NSW Championships where she ran 55.01 in the heats.

Men’s shot put

Over this summer it has been great to see Damien Birkinhead (Vic, Scott Martin) in his best form for three years, but he now has rising star Alexander Kolesnikoff (NSW, David Bruce) after his crown. A former Trinity School student in Sydney, Kolesnikoff has been studying at Harvard University online for the last 12 months. Birkinhead will be a formidable challenge as he has been the leading Aussie for the last eight years, which included snatching the national record from his coach, Scott Martin, in 2017.

London Paralympic Games gold medallist Todd Hodgetts (Scott Martin) put his Tokyo Paralympic Games on track in Hobart over the weekend, recording his first qualifier for the Games. Hodgetts put 15.74m surpassing the Games B standard of 15.52m and will be looking to confirm that form with another qualifying mark in Melbourne.

Mixed secured shot put

Jessee Wyatt (John Eden) broke his own F33 Oceania record at the Sydney Track Classic with a put of 9.84m, however the performance left him agonisingly 7cm short of a qualifier for the Tokyo Paralympics. In his hometown of Melbourne he should be primed to raise the record again and nail that Tokyo mark of 9.91m. Rosemary Little (Karyne Di Marco & Breanne Clement) will be looking for just a 1cm improvement in Melbourne. At the Sydney Track Classic she set a PB of 6.10m on her opening attempt, her third F32 Tokyo B qualifier, but it was tantalisingly short of the A standard of 6.11m. Her competitor, F33 athlete Maria Strong (John Eden) has put a personal best of 6.43m this summer, securing two Tokyo A qualifiers.

Women’s 1500m

An intriguing line-up here. 2019 World Championships semi-finalist Georgia Griffith (Steve Ellinghaus) has overcome an injury this summer and ran a terrific 2:02.5 800m at the Vic Milers last week. Teenager Abbey Caldwell (Gavin Burren) is making great progress this summer as she transitions into the senior ranks. She has lowered her best by eight seconds, now at 4:10.25, run at the Canberra Track Classic. What a range Gen Gregson (Nic Bideau) has, Zatopek 10 in January, national 5000m last week and now 1500m. She is not far from her best form over this distance recording her 4:09 PB just last September. 

Men’s 1500m

Jye Edwards (Dick Telford) made a breakthrough at the Canberra Track Classic clocking 3:37.30, a four second PB, lowering his four-year-old previous best, but can he hold off a quality field including Ryan Gregson (Nic Bideau) and Jordy Williamsz (Nic Bideau)? 

At Zatopek:10, World Championship semi-finalists Williamsz, just defeated training partner Gregson, a 1500m finalist at the Rio Olympics, as they both just dipped under 3:40. Bronze medallists at the last two national championships, Rorey Hunter (Dick Telford) makes his season debut here.

Jaryd Clifford (Philo Saunders) has on four occasions this summer lowered his own 1500m T12 world record, with his latest down to 3:41.34 at the Canberra Track Classic. This will be another perfect opportunity to improve his record ahead of the nationals where the race is likely to be slow and tactical.

Men’s Ambulant Javelin

2017 World Para-Athletics champion Jayden Sawyer (F38, Mike Barber) is on target to nudge his season’s best of 46.58m over the Tokyo Paralympic Games B standard of 46.64m, for his second qualifier. Looking for his first is shot put world champion, Cam Crombie (F38, Hamish MacDonald) who has been within a metre of the standard with a season’s best of 45.87m. Jackson Hamilton (Morgan Ward) will certainly smash the Oceania record in the F13 javelin on the evidence of his season’s best of 53.70m.