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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Australia’s fastest woman Melissa Breen aiming to smash the barrier and run a perfect 10

Australia’s fastest woman Melissa Breen aiming to smash the barrier and run a perfect 10

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Australia’s fastest woman Melissa Breen aiming to smash the barrier and run a perfect 10

The Daily Telegraph •
March 10, 2014

Melissa Breen will be looking to break more records when she runs in Sydney this weekend. Source: Getty Images

RUNNING 100 metres in under 11 seconds used to be an aim-high, note-on-the-fridge type goal for Melissa Breen.

Events of the last few months have changed Breen’s mind, however.

Now its straight a matter of when, not if, she’ll win a race and see the magic figures 1 and 0 at the start of her time.

“I have always believed I could do it. It was more of a dream but now it is something I completely own,” Breen says. “I will do it. I just don’t know when.”

No Australian woman has ever run under 11 seconds, but then again, no Aussie female had run under 11.12 seconds either until a month ago.

Breen wins the women’s 100-metre event during the Perth Track Classic in FebruarySource: Getty Images

Breen conquered the latter in Canberra, and on Saturday night, the 23-year-old will have a crack at the former piece of history as well at the Sydney Track Classic at Homebush.

“That would be glorious. I would love to run (under) 11 seconds in Sydney,” Breen said.

“I guess breaking the record in Canberra showed to me that good conditions, so we’ll see what gets tossed up.”

If hot weather and tailwinds help, no-one is doubting if Breen has got the game to make it happen at Homebush.

Who would dare? The Canberra girl lopped off a whopping 0.14 seconds from previous PB to run 11.11 on February 9, breaking Melinda Gainsford-Taylor’s longstanding record from 1994.

It was one of the great in-your-face performances by Breen, who last year lost her Athletics Australia funding because someone decided she wasn’t likely to make an Olympic or World Championship final.

Or, rather, something decided it.

“They do it in a program where they put your times in, and it spits out a result saying whether you are projected to be top eight in Rio,” Breen explains.

“It’s hard to accept it is a program that does that, because we are all humans, not robots.”

Breen was so gutted by the decision she briefly contemplated turning to cycling or bobsledding.

“The thing that hurt the most was the lack of belief from your own federation,” Breen said.

“But I grew from it, and everything is reviewed after the National Champs at the start of April. I hope I will be back as a funded athlete, that’d be awesome.”

Given 11.11 would have made the 2012 Olympic semi-final, take it as a given it’ll be “Computer says yes” this time for her $70,000 travel funding, and if it doesn’t, someone pass the sledgehammer.

Luckily, the record run has given Breen a nice bubble of sponsorship interest as a buffer to keep her going, and keep coach/manager Matt Beckenham busy.

The easy smile on Breen’s face these days is a contrast from the forced one when she hoped for a better year on New Year’s Eve.

It wasn’t all that hard after a horror 2013, which contained injury, a mystery illness that left her kidneys damaged, the funding cut, a car theft and deaths of her beloved grandma and family cat.

“We did a cheers, with my water and Mum and Dad with their champagne and said “it can’t get any worse ... it can only get better from here”,” Breen said.

They did, and rapidly. Just 40 days later Breen snared the record in a meet semi-final.

Arguably just as important, the 2012 Olympian then bottled her exploding emotions and went onto to beat Olympic hurdles champion Sally Pearson in the final, for the first time in 30 races.

Beckenham said post-race he didn’t know which was the bigger breakthrough.

“It was a huge day. At moments it still doesn’t sink in what I have done. When you read “fastest Australian woman in history”, it is mind-blowing,” Breen said.

“There are so many amazing athletes who gone before us, who I have so much respect for. Even Cathy Freeman was 11.24 seconds. It’s extremely humbling.”

Breen had always been able to run fast but it was only when she stopped trying so hard that she began to fly.

After a disappointing performance at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Breen and Beckenham stripped back her running action and started again. They gave it three years to bear fruit.

“I ran with a lot tension, so it was something we needed to change. You can’t just try and run fast, you have to let your body run fast,” Breen says.

“I wasn’t good at letting things happen. I thought: “To run fast, I have to try really hard”. But that is just a recipe for disaster.”

An athlete once sabotaged by anxiety when racing international stars like Pearson, Breen is now excited by it.

The pair will meet again in the Sydney Track Classic, and the exciting part for Breen — and fans — is a review of her 11.11 race tape shows some more lazy time to trim.

“There is still a lot improvement in the last part of my race. I do drop off a bit,” Breen said.

“I feel like I am in better shape now than when I ran the record.”

Could do the 1 and the 0 be a special guest at Homebush? Breen refers to her Rio finals aspiration — you listening computer? — as an answer.

“What Matt and I always say is “just because it hasn’t been done before by an Australian, doesn’t mean it’s impossible”,” Breen says.

“That’s what is always ringing through my head. Everything has been impossible, until it got done.”

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