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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Len Johnson on the Relays at the Brisbane Track Classic

Len Johnson on the Relays at the Brisbane Track Classic

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Just a little faster will do: A Column By Len Johnson

posted by rtross
Runners Tribe
January 13, 2012,

Never mind ‘Speed City’, just a little faster will do, thanks very much.

The Australian domestic circuit gets under way in Brisbane this weekend. The meeting is centred around the four Australian relay teams and giving them the chance to post qualifying times for London 2012.

To hear the promotion, you’d reckon Brisbane has been re-named ‘Speed City’. Well, you’ve got to cut your suit to suit your cloth, I suppose, but I don’t think San Jose State University should be worried about its reputation just yet.

San Jose State was the original ‘Speed City’, acquiring the nickname for legendary sprint coach ‘Bud’ Winter and his even more legendary sprinters led (in the late 1960s, anyway) by Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Lee Evans.

With all due respect to our current sprinters, Brisbane 2012 is not threatening that sort of individual line-up. Forget ‘Speed City’, in fact, what we would like Brisbane to be on Saturday, 14 January, 2012 is just a little bit faster than average city.

Relays are one of the targeted areas under Athletics Australia’s high performance plan and the aim surely must be to qualify all four relays for London. To do that, each squad has to be in the top 16 countries in the world, the ranking to be decided on the aggregate of the two fastest times recorded in the qualifying period (from 1 January, 2011).

Trouble is, none of the four squads are well placed on that basis. The IAAF has not published the ranking lists yet, but a rough calculation suggests that only one of the four squads is safely inside the top 16. Ironically, that is the women’s 4x100 at somewhere between six and 10.

Yet the women’s 4x100 was only 16th on single-fastest performance, the 43.69 it ran to qualify for last year’s world championships. That means a lot of the countries which as yet do not have a second performance have the potential to go past Australia.

So Sally Pearson and her teammate will be looking for something considerably faster than 43.69 in Brisbane, to bring the aggregate down as low as possible.

The 4x400 is in big trouble. Australia was only the 20th-fastest in 2011, so it has to do something substantially better than the 3:32.27 in the heats in Daegu – and probably needs two times of around 3:28 to be safe.

Numerically, the men’s squads are vulnerable, too. Both sit around 10th on the list. Unlike our women’s squads, however, the relay men have consistent form, so should be able to equal or better the 38.69 and 3:01.56 posted last year. Overall, too, the men’s world lists look a little less volatile than the women’s and Australia has a bit more depth, particularly in the men’s 4x400.

Still, there will be more than a few people hoping that all four batons get around on Saturday night in Brisbane, and waiting anxiously for the times – not the least of them the high performance staff.

Then, it will be a case of waiting to see what other countries can do. Most good relay times are run in championships, as opportunities are limited elsewhere. This year, the European championships move to a two-year cycle.

It is a strange move, and already a number of nations – Britain, for one – and individuals have indicated they will not be taking a championships so close to the Olympics seriously.

But it might be the ideal chance to have a hit-out in the relay, and post a fast time. So you wouldn’t want to be sitting 13-16 on the rankings and waiting for half a dozen European teams to have one last chance at knocking you out of the Olympics.

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