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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Questions being asked after poor athletics performances writes Caroline Wilson

Questions being asked after poor athletics performances writes Caroline Wilson

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Questions being asked after poor athletics performances

By Caroline Wilson
The Age
August 11, 2012

ATHLETICS Australia has been left mystified by a series of substandard Olympic track performances which saw every male middle-distance runner fail to make their finals and all running well below their personal best.

As the fall out from Australia's disappointing London Olympics continued, the AA president, Rob Fildes, said: ''A number of our athletes came here with high expectations and failed to perform … It seems some of our athletes can't produce PBs while others shine and that has to be a mental, emotional question. We believe that's one area where we are capable of results just as good as the US and Great Britain.''

Fildes revealed his sport would push to create a distance and middle-distance running centre of excellence - along the lines of the pole vaulting program successfully established in Perth - in a bid to become more competitive.

Athletics Australia vice-president, David Grace, said: ''You look at [Australian 5000 metre runner] Collis Birmingham who's run a 13 minutes: 10 [seconds] and runs 13:45 here. That's inexplicable to us.''

But according to respected international commentator Maurie Plant, the bigger challenge lies in managing the legacy of Sally Pearson. ''Why were there no men in the 100, 200 or 400? Where were our 200 and 400 metre women runners? Where's the back-up for Sally Pearson? We've had Ralph Doubell and Pam Kilborn in '68. We had Raelene Boyle and Denise Boyd after that … We need people to challenge her [Sally Pearson].''

The London athletics program saw just one Australian middle-distance runner, Zoe Buckman, achieve a personal best.

Inexplicable ... Collis Birmingham, who ran his event
35 seconds slower than his previous personal best.
Photo: Iain Gillespie

"That's an example of how we expect our athletes to run," said Fildes, who estimated the sport would need a public funding boost of between $500,000 to $1 million to retain enough young runners to launch a competitive international assault.

The results have left Australia's middle-distance coaches shattered, with Melbourne Track Club director Nic Bideau, who coaches Birmingham, Jeff Risely, Ryan Gregson and Buckman, among others, considering his future.

"Nic was disappointed after Beijing and he'll be disappointed now," said Fildes. "Any decision is up to him but we rate him as a coach and would like him to remain."

Of the 5000m contingent, Craig Mottram proved the best of a disappointing bunch. Risely questioned his presence in athletics after a substandard 800m heat. Gregson finished last in his 1500m semi-final in just over 3:45, well outside his best. And then the Australian 400m relay team failed to reach the final despite a disqualification and injuries to their opponents.


We should have given the green light to all of our B qualifiers to start in individual track and field events. This would have particularly benefited our relay performances by giving the athletes a good hard run or 2 as a lead up to the relays.


ProTrack Star
ProTrack Star
I think Eddie McGuire pretty much nailed it.
Our best are getting looked after with endorsements and sponsorship and high profiles.Its the next tier of athletes who need to be supported a lot more, the ones who are holding down part time jobs and who havent quite made it.
As much as you love or hate him what he said certainly makes sense.
Perhaps we are losing to many athletes to the sport who havent achieved simply on the basis that the struggle to put food on the table and train brings them up slightly short.


Point noted Whispers. I wonder how much funding and resources have been pumped into 'Team Hooker' in the last 2 years compared to many others in the team without Hooker's profile. I suspect about 10 lesser profile athletes combined would not match the resources for Hooker.

I have heard a whisper that to placate Steffensen over the last two years he also has had a lot of funding pushed his way. And if it's true that's a lot of money for someone who has basically been of little vale other than a relay runner for the past four years. No doubt it's a lot more than was offered Steve Solomon's coach to travel with Steve to London.

Four years ago, Sally Pearson & Jarred Tallent won medals in Beijing. Watt picked up a medal here to replace the Hooker medal from Beijing. We held our own and that's about it.

Whether it be Eric Hollingsworth or Eric Idle the result would have been the same regardless of the head coach. So in real terms, the High Performance Manager has had no impact on the quality of the performances or the results. This might be a good thing for EH, because AA may look around and conclude that regardless of who the HPM is, the results don't change all that much.

Might be a case of given the status quo has remained under him and it's less painful, financially, than seeking to replace him, no change will be made. Therefore, I suspect Hollingsworth will remain in the role for the tenure of his contract (Glasgow CG 2014).

"Let's Go While We're Young"


ProTrack Star
ProTrack Star
Glad to see someone has finally mentioned Nic Bideau in an article and questioned his results. It seems to me that he is very good at getting runners qualified but that's as far as it goes. Can anyone list his successes at major championships??


From the article on the other thread regarding disappointments.

"Hollingsworth said Team GB provided the 'clear example' for Australia, which needed to be more ruthless if it wanted to improve performance. He pointed to the problem of the AOC wanting to take the biggest team possible every Olympics, a philosophy which he said ran counter to elite performance.

He said Australia lacked the hunger to perform of other countries, with many athletes in the total Australian team happy just to get to the Games and collect a tracksuit."

EH is talking absolute rubbish when he suggests that taking a 'massive team' runs counter to elite performance. It is manifestly proven with the Olympic results that by ignoring B qualifiers and choosing only A quualifiers you run the risk of ignoring potential finalists and semi finalists. The two discretionary B qualifiers - Steve Solomon and Melissa Breen performed far better than many of the A qualifiers, especially the middle distance brigade. Breen only just missed the semis and Solomon made the final.

Given Josh Ross's run in the 4x100m relay, it's almost certain he would have run around 10.15 to 10.20 and qualify for the semis, which again would have been a far better performance relative to others in the team.

When compared to potential career paths in the four football/rugby codes, athletes need to have a realistic chance to make an Olympic team as an incentive to remain in the sport. If an athlete is the best we have in that event and appear to be in shape to do well and has achieved a world class standard such as the 'B' then why not offer the opportunity for them to perform? It's a nonsense that by having only A standard athletes, who got the 'A' months ago somehow ensures elite results.

If there are athletes in the athletics team that were only there to get an Olympic tracksuit then they are in the minority as most have too much pride to perform badly on the biggest stage of all. But if so, name them and make it known that as a result of their poor performance they jeopardise future opportunities.

EH has to take some responsibilty for the under-performance, because it's london to a brick he would have taken the credit had they performed beyond expectations.

"Let's Go While We're Young"

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