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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Solomon right choice says The Age

Solomon right choice says The Age

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1 Solomon right choice says The Age on Mon Jul 16, 2012 2:50 pm


Solomon is right choice for Games

Date July 16, 2012
Michael Gleeson
Sports Writer for The Age


JOHN Steffensen understands that in a marginalised sport you often have to scream to be heard. So he does a lot of screaming.

Most of the time his tongue is tucked into his cheek as he trash talks and riffs about being a rabbit being chased by lions, about the track being a murder scene and other such banal well-intended nonsense. But other times it is just silliness.

Steffensen was wrong with his understandable but incorrect protest that he should have been the man to be given the discretionary pick to run the 400 metres individual event in London. That honour went to Steve Solomon.

Steffensen said he would consider pulling out of the Olympics as a result of the decision and blamed the selection on his skin colour and the discrimination he says he has long suffered as a black athlete in Australia. Steffensen is indigenous, Solomon is white and also happens to be Jewish.

No Australian ran an A-qualifying time in the 400 but Australia had the chance to nominate one athlete to run the event. Whoever it did not choose would be discriminated against - that is what happens with discretionary selections. Steffensen may have suffered discrimination as an athlete because of his race or colour but not this time.

Steffensen won the Olympic trial in Melbourne earlier this year in a B-standard time. And this is his most persuasive argument to race in London in the individual event. But it is not that simple.

Solomon was picked because he is 19, has won consecutive national titles and ran second to Steffensen in the Olympic trial. Steffensen did not run at the national titles after injuring his hamstring running on grass at the Stawell Gift.

The rule used to select Solomon with a B-standard is the same rule used to select Melissa Breen in the women's 100 metres also without an A-standard. It is called the Rio clause. It is the provision to include a young and promising athlete who has run consistently strong B-standard times and might be a chance to medal in the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Solomon already has two national titles and rapidly improving times. He posted a career-best time at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona last week.

Steffensen has been a tremendous athlete for Australia - he has won two Commonwealth golds and was part of the relay team that won silver at the world championships in Helsinki in 2004 - but is he likely to be a chance to medal in Rio? No.

He would argue he would be a better chance to medal in London than Solomon but that is moot.

Steffensen's outburst was in truth more an eruption at years of distaste for athletics management in Australia than this isolated selection issue. It was the expression of years of antipathy to Athletics Australia, some of it justified, some of it not.

In 2010 he pulled out of the Commonwealth Games claiming he had been let down by AA. He was subsequently banned for three months for bringing the sport into disrepute.

At the Australian national titles that followed the lifting of the ban he clashed with AA president Rob Fildes. The details of the he-said he-said incident remain debatable but it appears Steffensen ignored Fildes at the track and the president grabbed the athlete to get his attention. Steffensen pursued an apprehended violence order against Fildes.

Some may sympathise with Steffensen's frustrations with the sport, but he was wrong about the London team: Solomon is the right person to be running for Australia in the 400 metres.

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