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PROTRACK » GENERAL » AA Head Coach calls for relay priority

AA Head Coach calls for relay priority

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1 AA Head Coach calls for relay priority on Thu Aug 25, 2016 1:14 pm



Rio Olympics 2016: Coach calls for relay priority over 'delusions of individual grandeur'

By Michael Gleeson
The Age
21 August 2016

Australian runners needed to abandon delusions of individual grandeur and focus on Australia having a full suite of relay teams at the next Olympics to win more medals, head coach Craig Hilliard said.
Despite winning only two medals at the Games, which was fewer than in London and half the number won by New Zealand, Hilliard said the depth of performance was far greater by Australia in Rio than four years ago in England.

"Two medals I am happy with that and there was scope for more medals there we had two fourths," Hilliard said at the end of the last night at the track and ahead of the men's marathon.

Hilliard said in London the efforts of big names like Sally Pearson and Jared Tallent masked a lack of depth of performance below but a new young breed of athletes led by Ella Nelson, Morgan Mitchell, Damien Birkenhead, Kurtis Marschall and Cedric Dubler were promising for Tokyo in four years.

"The encouraging thing for me is how many athletes did we move into the top eight? We are certainly ahead of London in those stats. I think we had six in London and we ended up with nine in Rio and it could have been a few more because we had four ninths," he said.

"Importantly it is the younger kids who really stood up here. We had 28 athletes out of 61 make a semi-final and nine of them are at the age of 25 years old. Looking forward to Tokyo that's an encouraging place to be."

Australia had one relay team in Rio – the women's 4x400 - who made the final and ran close to a national record. He said a priority had to be to foster a relay team first and worry for individual races after that.

"The 4x100 men we are in a good position for the next four years to develop that but we have to find some 400m male runners. That is the cold hard truth of it and similarly with our women (4x100m)," Hilliard said.

There has to be a reality check somewhere along the line - you can't deny them the opportunity say and 'Listen you can make it' look at Josh Clark .... but there is a cut-off point, if you are just running outside the qualifier and pushing, pushing, instead say let's focus on the relay, put all our eggs in one basket there and really harness that talent and work on that. Look what Japan did here, look at what China did  at the world champs last year. Japan has come out and run second here, that is huge.
"I think athletes get caught up in the hype and there is a degree of a delusion of grandeur, not trying to take the dream away from them but there has to be some reality check along the way.

"You don't want to deny them but after X number of times there needs to be a point where it's not going to happen, let's channel focus to relays."

Hilliard admitted frustration at the system with "perennial offenders" who did enough to qualify and so could not be denied a place on the team but then bowed out in their first heat or round.

He said athletes who qualified very early in the qualifying period all performed poorly in Rio.

"There weren't a lot of surprises out there for me. You know where the athletes sit coming in, you don't hope. You might see some surprises and you'd like some athletes to step up … but what happened in the 800s on day one (when all three runners were knocked out in their heats) wasn't a surprise."

He said Fabrice Lapierre, Australia's strongest medal hope coming into the Games only to finish 10th, was "incredibly disappointed".

"He was in great shape coming in here there were no excuses for him and he didn't deliver on the night. I can't say any more about it, it's frustrating and that memory will live with him for a long time," he said.
Hilliard heaped praise on the young athletes such as Ella Nelson, Kurtis Marschall, Damien Birkenhead and Cedric Dubler.

"The Australian team competed out there. We've had teams in the past who have turned up and haven't competed.

"Forty-one athletes came out and bettered their entry level mark. That's a huge stat. Forty-one out of 60 athletes. We had 20 or 21 in London."

"Let's Go While We're Young"

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