High Flying Australians at Athletics Major Championships

What Wimbledon is to Federer or the Masters to Tiger Woods, the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games are the ultimate slams for our Australian athletes. Okay, yes, the Olympics are the most prestigious sporting event and it commands the world’s attention, but these two major championships present our Australians with some of the best opportunities to grab medals, establish themselves on the world stage, create sports legends and most of all who beat English.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent postponement of the Olympic Games to 2021, the World Athletics Championships and the Commonwealth Games will fall in the same year. In addition to these global sporting events, the year also hosted the World Indoor Championships and U20 World Championships, leading to four global competitions in 2022. This unprecedented scenario has allowed our Australian track and field athletes to showcase their amazing talents multiple times throughout the year.

To summarize our successes in statistics: At the 2022 World Championships in Eugene, Oregon, the Australian team won their most successful championship in well over a decade. The team had a total of 62 athletes, won three medals (two gold, one bronze), set nine personal bests, 30 season bests, eleven top-eight finishes, and 65 percent of the athletes managed to finish better than their world rankings. The big takeaway is that 37 per cent of the team – or 23 athletes – competed in finals: the most Australian athletes to have made it to a World Finals in over 10 years.

Statistical analysis is great, but it can distill an athlete’s or team’s performance into numbers that don’t always give the full picture. By hearing and understanding the journeys, hardships and achievements of our athletes throughout their careers, we can learn much more about the importance of those athletes’ achievements. It’s those aspects of a sporting career that really resonate with mere mortals like you and me.

Many are now familiar with 100m sprinter Rohan Browning’s outrageous “flying mullet” haircut after he was recognized for his exploits at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, where he shot to national recognition nearly broke that magic 10-second barrier to reach the semifinals. However, the USyd athlete, who manages to juggle a Bachelor of Arts/Law degree and a world-class sprinting career, had a mixed 2022 even by his high standards.

Rohan Browning 100m at the 2022 Commonwealth Games

A hamstring injury earlier in the season knocked him out of the national championships, but he managed to recover and race ahead of the World Championships in Japan. This season, Browning concentrated on the first 10 to 20 meters of his race and became technically more consistent in the drive phase.

A week before the World Championships, Browning clocked a brisk 10.08s, returning to the sub-10.10s club. The Commonwealth Games provided another opportunity to show how much he had grown as a sprinter. Browning finished sixth in that final with a time of 10:20. It may not look like a ‘great’ record on paper, but the winning time was just 10.02 and Browning was a staggering 0.06 seconds from a medal. Over the past four years he has built an impressive CV which he continues to add to year by year, constantly improving his technique and results at international level. If this uptrend means anything, that magical under-10 barrier could be shattered sometime soon.

The last two years has seen Mackenzie Little Become a giant on the world javelin stage. After graduating from Stanford, the high-flying javelin thrower returned home and began a MD program at USyd and is part of the SUSF Elite Athlete Program. After becoming Australian and Oceanian Champion this year, she made it to the final of the World Championships where her opening throw sailed to 63.22m in the final, a new personal best that eventually gave her a fantastic fifth place. At the Commonwealth Games, Little was an almost certain medal and a real contender for the gold. Again, her opening throw produced a PB and put tremendous pressure on the rest of the field. After leading most of the contest, with another PB in the fifth round, she was knocked out by just 16 centimeters by her fellow Australian, Kelsey-Lee Barber. Despite competing at the highest level, Little manages to get a full-time college degree and works one day a week at the Royal North Shore Hospital. All in all, the future looks incredibly bright for an athlete who is only 25 years old and believes the best is yet to come for her javelin and medical career.

Nicola Olygslagers, who graduated earlier this year, is undoubtedly a world-class high jumper; the crème de la crème, really. After a stellar 2021 that resulted in sterling silver at the Olympics, Nicola hasn’t quite reached the same heights this year. However, anyone who has watched her vaults at the World Championships can see that she still revels in conquering any height and was still a top league contender.

Co-Captain of Sydney University Athletics Club Michelle “Shelly” Jenneke Justifiably famous for her pre-race warm-up routine, she has had an incredible comeback year in the 100m hurdles. As a representative at the Olympics, World Championships, Commonwealth Games and World University Games, Jenneke has reached heights most athletes only dream of. After enduring a difficult 2021 that saw her fail to qualify for the Olympics, she fought back from injury and rode in a world-record semi-final at the Worlds this year, where she finished fifth with a massive new PB became. which put her second on the Australian all-time list, behind the great Sally Pearson.

This year was certainly a year of ups and downs Olli Hoare, our 1500 m national champion. Ollie started the calendar with a string of top five finishes and appeared to be in fine form early in the season leading up to the World Indoor Championships. There he reached the finals and ran a very respectable fifth place in a race that broke the championship record. From then on, Ollie finished in the top three at every big meet. Then came the Outdoor World Championships, where he competed as one of the favorites for the title. Unfortunately things didn’t go according to plan tactically and he was eliminated in the semi-finals. In Ollie’s own words, “You have to have those bumps in your career or you can’t be great, you can’t win a medal if you don’t know how to lose”.

Michelle Jenneke at the 2022 World Championships

This is an athlete who can dust himself off and fight back, and boy did he do that. Imagine: the Commonwealth Games in the heart of England, a stacked 1500m final field including newly crowned World Champion Jake Wightman (Scotland) and 2019 World Champion Timothy Cheruiyot (Kenya). bang! The gun goes off and the field is gone, the early laps are pretty quick and Ollie is well positioned throughout. On the final lap, with 200 yards to go like he did in the World Championship, Wightman takes a step towards the lead while Cheruiyot gives chase and Hoare goes wide with 100 yards to go. The Scot fades in the last 30 meters, seemingly leaving the Kenyan to take the title, but Ollie comes home with a barnstorm in the last 100 meters to take the title. Commonwealth Champion, games record, two seconds off his PB and the first Australian to win the Commonwealth 1500m title since the great Herb Elliot in 1958. said Nuff.

Judging by the performances of USyd athletes and the entire Australian team at the Commonwealth Games and World Championships, it is safe to say that Australia is at the dawn of a new golden age of athletics on the world stage.

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