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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Patrick Smith: Officials should have stood down loudmouth Steffensen/Put a sock in it Steff!

Patrick Smith: Officials should have stood down loudmouth Steffensen/Put a sock in it Steff!

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Panicked officials should have stood down, not placated loudmouth Steffensen

by: Patrick Smith
From:The Australian
July 17, 2012

IT does not matter how much you earn as an athlete, pennies or plenty, you are immediately expected to carry yourself at a level higher than we might demand of others not in the public eye.

It is especially true come prominent events such as the Olympics when people who might otherwise have gone about their sport unheralded, unhindered and under-financed are expected to maintain the standards of athletes paid thousands and sponsored by car firms, watch makers and toothpaste providers.

Hence two silly swimmers packing a small armory are castigated and ridiculed for a moment of poor judgment when they put a picture of themselves on Facebook. Haughty officials thought this dreadful and ruled that Nick D'Arcy and Kenrick Monk return home immediately after their events were over in London.

But what do we demand of our officials who set the rules and the guidelines by which our sportspeople must adhere? Not a lot. Commonsense, clarity, consistency. It should not be an improbable trifecta.

Sadly, it has not been in evidence with the people who run Athletics Australia. Those administrators and officials must be so grateful that the Olympics and Commonwealth Games only haunt them every two years.

The selection for the London team has been shambolic. It is not too harsh a description. AA had to be bullied into naming 22-year-old steeplechaser Genevieve LaCaze in the Games team when she ran an A qualifying time barely 24 hours after the selection deadline of June 11.

The Australian Olympic Committee pushed AA management into extending the deadline to June 22, thus allowing selectors to name LaCaze. Australia does not have so many world-class athletes that we can ignore their performances because of arbitrary cut-off dates.

That was embarrassing for AA but there was no other proper alternative. LaCaze's time of 9min 41secs, run at a college meeting in the US, demanded she get the chance to run for her country in London.

Then along came John Steffensen. The 400m runner went public with an unsubstantiated claim that racism was the reason teenager Steve Solomon was nominated as Australia's entrant in the 400m individual starting list.

Steffensen said that although he had won the Olympic trial he was overlooked for Solomon, 19, and that it was another example of how Athletics Australia had discriminated against him because of the colour of his skin.

Steffensen threatened to boycott the Olympics where he was selected as a member of the 4x400m relay. It was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of AA management and selectors who include Olympians Steve Moneghetti and Melinda Gainsford-Taylor. Steffensen should have been stood down immediately. He lost the right to represent his country. By constantly referring to claims of racism that he cannot prove, he trivialises a critical issue.

The matter has become more complicated by a decision to now name Steffensen as a reserve runner for the 400m, which is interpreted as an opportunity to name him ahead of Solomon only days before the event if form and fitness warrant. Former AA selector David Culbert even suggested there might be a run-off in London for the individual spot. Chief executive of AA, Dallas O'Brien, said yesterday the decision to nominate Steffensen had been taken by the AOC. While his nomination allows Australia to name its 400m runner as late as a day before the first heats, O'Brien insisted yesterday that Steffensen would run in the individual event only if Solomon was injured.

What is clear is that all of this was done in a panic. The decision to name Steffensen as a reserve was not part of the information relayed to Steffensen by AA officials when late last week they told the runner that Solomon had got the nod. If it had he would not have raced to every media outlet within a 500km radius. Rather than have the courage to drop Steffensen from the team, officials appear to have added him to the 400m individual list to placate him. At least shut him up.

AA tells it differently. Officials argue that they were always going to name Steffensen as a reserve but were unaware that a deadline was heading their way on the weekend. That does not explain why Steffensen was not informed that he had not been abandoned when told last week that Solomon was the No 1 runner.

All of this suggests the selection of the Australian athletics team is chaotic. Why didn't officials know that a deadline was only hours away and not weeks? While it is not a simple task, Australia's athletes deserve better management. Given the public money that the Olympics sucks up, the administrators and officials should be held to a higher account just as they do their sports men and women.

The A qualifying marks for Australia's athletics team are a more demanding criteria than that established by the IAAF and the IOC. There appear three reasons for that - budget restrictions and a theory B grade qualifications can breed complacency and mediocrity. Plus, selections which are based on opinion and discretionary powers are regularly challenged by miffed sports folk.

All of that makes sense. But there must be enough wriggle room that the selection system can foil blatantly poor decision-making. Not to pick LaCaze would have been stupid. Simple as that. To pick Steffensen, 29, when he is not running at his best ahead of a teenager who has just finished third in the junior world championships in a personal best time would be short-sighted.

Steffensen's biggest problem? He is a not-very-fast loudmouth. Administration's problem? Steffensen.

Last edited by Admin on Tue Jul 17, 2012 8:38 am; edited 1 time in total



Put a sock in it Steffensen
by: Anthony Sharwood, The Punch
From: No Source
July 16, 2012

John Steffensen has accused Athletics Australia of ignoring racial discrimination complaints. Picture: Gregg Porteous Source: The Daily Telegraph

THE problem with 400m runner John Steffensen is that he’s modelled himself on Anthony Mundine.

He’d be better off acting like a man instead of “The Man”, and copping his selection omission on the chin.

When Mundine switched from rugby league to boxing, he claimed league selectors wouldn’t pick him in representative teams because of the colour of his skin. That line was always ridiculous given the numerous dark-skinned players in rep teams at the time.

John Steffensen peddled a similar load of garbage this weekend, accusing Athletics Australia of racism after their failure to pick him for the individual 400m event in London, even though he’s still in the relay. It was a rant as hollow and unbalanced as anything Mundine ever delivered.

A quick recap, for those who missed the lead-up. John Steffensen hasn’t run an “A” qualifying time this year, which would likely have guaranteed an individual London 400m berth. Neither has anyone else in Australia.

That meant Athletics Australia was entitled to select just one 400m athlete who’d run a slightly slower “B” qualifier. So it did just that.

The athlete it chose wasn’t John Steffensen. Instead, it was national 400m champion Steve Solomon. Not only is 19 year old Solomon the national titleholder, he has also run a faster time than Steffensen this year, partly because Steffensen injured himself at the Stawell Gift.

Quite possibly Steffensen is still the stronger athlete. All the same, AA considers Solomon a serious long term prospect well worth blooding in London. And since this decision was what’s known as a “discretionary selection”, it was all, on paper at least, perfectly above board.

Athletics Australia’s selection policies this year have in truth been the proverbial dog’s breakfast. US-based Queensland Steeplechaser Genevieve LaCaze ran an A qualifier, mystifyingly didn’t get picked, then eventually did get picked due to public pressure and AOC intervention. It was high farce.

Change is needed at AA, and Steffensen and his fellow athletes probably deserve the cleanout Steffensen has long campaigned for. But it’s a leap of Steve Hooker proportions to say that an inept body is a racist body.

Maybe John Steffensen should talk to Patrick Johnson, Josh Ross, Nova Peris-Kneebone and a woman called Catherine Freeman who both literally and figuratively lit up the track at Sydney.

He of all people should also know that selections are habitually messy in athletics. For a number of reasons, it is simply not practical for the sport to adopt swimming’s elegantly simple selection process of first-past-the-post at the national trials.
Steffensen apparently received moral support from former indigenous hurdler Kyle Vander Kuyp after his appearance on Nine. Maybe they could both shed some light on this issue, so to speak. If barriers to selection do exist for indigenous athletes, the public deserves to hear some specifics.

Here’s a sample of what Steffensen told Channel Nine on Saturday:
“I don’t think [Solomon’s selection] helps the legitimacy of our sport or the selection criteria, and I think it only makes our sport look stupid. The rules and the goalposts are getting shifted. Now they’re going to pick who they want to put in the team.

“I’ve put up with being racially vilified by this federation, being discriminated against on many teams.

“...You think I waste my time running at training for fun? For this? “No, they can have athletics. I don’t need to do this no more

“…You know it would help if I was a different colour. A lot of my decisions with my federation would be totally different.

“But I’ve never brought that up. I’ve always kept quiet on that. Because people aren’t really going to want to hear that sort of stuff.”

Steffensen is way out of whack in that last line. If discrimination is real, then you betcha, people absolutely would like to hear about it.

Look at the outcry earlier this year when an AFL recruiter suggested some clubs are avoiding players of Aboriginal heritage. Plenty of people got extremely angry when they heard that. Those same people, and plenty more, would get right behind Steffensen with a full head of righteous steam if he came up with even a skerrick of hard evidence.

So how about it, John? Or is this all bluster in the great Mundine tradition?

Now 30, Steffensen has been a fine athlete for some time. I was fortunate enough to be trackside in Athens in 2004 on the final evening of Olympic track competition, when Steffensen led Australia off in the 4x400m relay en route to an unexpected silver medal. Steffensen finished his lap in 7th place, as each member of the Aussie team clawed back their share of ground.

The following year, Steffensen made the 2005 World Championships final. He also won dual Commonwealth gold in Melbourne, before boycotting Delhi after yet more argy bargy with Athletics Australia.

The bottom line is that Steffensen has been and still is a world class athlete. But he is not quite a world-beating athlete. AA has used its discretionary selection to pick a young guy in Steve Solomon who might one day reach that extra level.

By the way, young Solomon is reportedly Jewish. You somehow get the feeling he wouldn’t be calling AA a pack of anti-Semites had he missed selection for an individual 400m berth in London.



Steffensen fast losing respect after outburst

Bendigo Advertiser
17 Jul, 2012

IT’S encouraging to hear there is no truth to reports Australian runner John Steffensen could line up in the individual 400m at the London Olympics after all.

Steffensen should feel lucky Athletics Australia has decided not to take action for his claim the governing body failed to select him based on ‘colour’.

Steffensen’s allegations are disappointing for all those who have seriously worked hard to stamp out racism in sport.

The flamboyant runner has a point if he’s arguing his non-selection based on the rules.

It’s true teenager Steve Solomon finished a few hundreths of a second short of the A Qualifying time needed for an individual 400 metres place.

Based on selection criteria, Solomon should not run.

But Athletics Australia made a good decision in looking to the future by giving him valuable experience.

You would think Steffensen would be thrilled to have a chance of taking in the Olympic experience as a member of the 4x400m relay team. Instead, he threatens to boycott the Olympic Games and leave his team-mates out in the cold.

Athletics Australia says the decision was based on the facts Solomon has posted two personal best times in the past four weeks and is running the 400 metres a second faster than Steffensen.

The governing body cited Steffensen’s failure to regain form after tearing a hamstring at the Stawell Gift as another reason Solomon was chosen ahead of him for an individual spot.

Steffensen claimed at the weekend he deserved respect for everything he had done for the sport.

Respect is earned and an outburst such as this isn’t the way to go about that.

It would be sad if his career was lost in the shadow of this irrational outburst.


i wonder what john is going to say if he nominates for stawel 2013 and there is no backmarker of the ilk of frater he will come back in handicap as every one else
plus his penalty for being finalist stawell can the handicapper ignore semi final, hey man im being disciminated against ? because i am a whitey ?

if he is not penalised i would think
all caucasian's could say they are being discriminated against

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