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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Steffensen under fire in return to Sydney

Steffensen under fire in return to Sydney

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1 Steffensen under fire in return to Sydney on Sat Feb 18, 2012 10:03 am



Steffensen under fire in return to Sydney

by: Mike Hurst
From: The Daily Telegraph
February 16, 2012 12:00AM

Top Dog: John Steffensen signifies how he rates himself after his narrow win in Perth last weekend Source: Getty Images

WELCOME home John Steffensen. It's good to have the both of you back.

So which Steffensen will we see at the Sydney Track Classic this Saturday night? The one that embraces the sport and everyone in it, or the one who threatened to take an AVO out against the Athletics Australia president at last years national championships?

Who cares, right? So long as Steffensen puts on a show in the 400m, perhaps the most eagerly anticipated race on the program at Homebush and the last before the Olympic Trials start in Melbourne on March 1.

Steffensen won the most recent 400m race in Perth and then slid on his knees with arms outstretched before the enthusiastic crowd. Was he seeking their adulation or reacting to it?

In the stadium of mirrors where Steffensen seems to have dwelled far too long running continuous laps of honour he is impervious to criticism or defeat. And so he seems unaware or couldnt care that he irritates many of his own teammates with his unoriginal bellicose gangsta patter, including this kind of taunt which followed his very narrow win in Perth: "It was a murder scene out there, the way I murdered their little boys. Someone should call 000. It was a crime scene."

But one thing they surely envy is his capacity to create at least in his own mind the illusion of invincibility and then fight like a demon to defy the reality that he is far from impervious to pain.

It has always been a game of brinksmanship Steffensen has played out since making his first Olympic team in 2004, but then he plays it very well and afterall isnt that the very nature of elite track and field where excellence is never more than a stride ahead of defeat or injury.

So return the insults to Steffensen if you would, but on the track he is the most professional male sprinter Australia has at the moment and should be admired for committing himself to being the best he can be by seeking out history's greatest 400m coach, John Smith, and then devoting himself to Smith's program in the Los Angeles area ever since 2004.

Now, as we wonder how many more seasons Steffensen's legs can support him in the brutal one-lap test of speed and stamina - he is the last man standing of the Silver Bullets 4x400m relay which ran second at the Athens Olympics - there comes a new generation of 400m sprinters.

They include NSW Central Coast training partners Kevin Moore and Matt Lynch, and WA's Ben Offereins but are currently led by Sydney's Steven Solomon, 18, who as a schoolboy last year won the Australian Open championship in 45.5sec.

It is up to them to find a way to pierce Steffensen's armour, perhaps by tapping his vanity and breaking his rhythm. Easier said than done.

Solomon, who tallied 95 for his UAI (not including bonus points for being an elite sportsman), will follow fellow South Africa-born Steffensen to California after the Olympics. Solomon will study pre-medicine most likely at Stanford (and train with coach Edrick Floreal) although he has been offered a place at UCLA where John Smith, unfortunately, no longer coaches.

Solomon returned after a summer of injury for his first race only last weekend and finished a fast closing second (in 46.26) to Steffensen (46.11), also making his seasons debut, in Perth.

Solomon was 0.6sec behind Steffensen and Offereins (both 21.9sec) at halfway and even though Steffensen ran an ordinary 12.8sec last 100m it was good enough to hold out Solomon.

As a point of reference Darren Clark ran 11.7 for the final 100m in his national record (44.38sec) which still stands.

On Saturday they will all have to contend with 2011 US world championship 4x400m relay gold medallist Greg Nixon and Kenya's 800m world record-holder David Rudisha who ran his personal best 400m (45.5) in Sydney two years ago. You want to see a fast finish, watch this Masai warrior.

2 Solomon fired up by Steffensen's comments on Sat Feb 18, 2012 10:38 am



Teenager desperate to douse John Steffensen's fire

* by: Glenda Korporaal
* From: The Australian
* February 16, 2012

SYDNEY teenager Steven Solomon said he was "fired up" for this weekend's 400m rematch with John Steffensen in Sydney, after the outspoken sprinter said he had "murdered" Solomon and the other "little boys" on the track in Perth last weekend.

Steffensen, 29, beat the 18-year-old Solomon, who was racing for the first time in five months after a hamstring injury, at the Perth Track Classic.

Steffensen, who won the 400m in 46.11sec, said the race was a "murder scene" and "someone should have called triple zero".

Solomon, who is the national 400m champion, finished second in 46.26sec followed by Australian relay teammate West Australian Ben Offereins in 46.49s.

Solomon started slowly but came home strongly.

"He (Steffensen) ran a good practical race but the pressure is on him to keep reproducing these results," Solomon said yesterday.

"If he wants to win on Saturday, he will have to run a fair bit faster than what he did in Perth." Solomon said he "didn't run the smoothest of tactical races" in Perth.

"I had no one on my outside who would help me pace the first 200m," he said.

"I ended up going through the first half over half a second slower than the other boys and came home a second faster."

It was the first appearance back on the track in Australia for Steffensen since last July.

The fiery Steffensen, who won a silver medal as a member of the Australian 4x400m relay at the 2004 Athens Olympics, has had a difficult relationship with Athletics Australia.

He boycotted the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010, accusing the organisation of not backing him.

But he said on the weekend he believed the sport was now behind him.

"It has been a tough road and I finally have my federation behind me," he said.

In a reversal of past form, he praised AA officials, including high-performance manager Eric Hollingsworth and chief executive Dallas O'Brien, after the race.

"Dallas and Eric are the first two people in the federation ever who have been there when I have asked for something and who have listened to me," he said.

"Some people are made for it and others crumble under the pressure," he said when asked about his determination to continue competing.

Solomon said Steffensen's comments would "fire him up" for Saturday's race.

Solomon has a personal best of 45.58sec in the 400m, which he ran in Melbourne last April, but his hamstring injury has kept him from racing for the past five months.

"To open up with 46.26 seconds this season is promising for me," he said.

"Last weekend was the first time I have raced since I sustained an injury, and it was about getting back into the rhythm of running 400m."

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