High jumper Nicola McDermott the first Australian woman to clear 2m
Jye Edwards powered past Australian middle-distance superstar Stewart McSweyn, while high jumper Nicola McDermott conquered the two-metre barrier on a dramatic final day at the Olympic athletics trials.
The men’s 1500m is the most fiercely contested event on the Australian track and field program and the little-known Edwards took it to a new level on Sunday.
As expected, national record holder McSweyn surged away from the pack from the starters’ gun. What was less expected was that Edwards went with McSweyn and stayed on his shoulder, before surging to the front in the final straight.
Edwards’ winning time of three minutes 33.99 seconds guaranteed him a spot on the Olympic team.
“I was 95 per cent sure that is how the race would play out,” said the 23-year-old university student, who stripped almost one and a half seconds off his PB.
“[McSweyn] did all the work and I was lucky to be there with 100 metres to go. That would have been his game-plan and I had mine. To be able to come over the top, I was stoked. The hardest part was just being there.”
McSweyn was surprised by the strength of the headwind on the back straight, when Edwards was tucked in behind him. “He had a good sit,” said the versatile McSweyn. “It’s hard to do solo a full 1500 so I’m probably not quite there to be able to do it yet.”
McSweyn (3:34.55) has been pre-selected in the 5000m and 10,000m for Tokyo, although he may well choose to contest the 1500m instead.
Further muddying the waters, Oliver Hoare and Matthew Ramsden have also bettered the 1500m Tokyo standard, but there are only thee spots available.
Drawing inspiration from a biblical passage written on her left wrist, McDermott added 2cm to her personal best as she became the first Australian female high jumper to clear the two-metre barrier.
“What was written was fearless hearts are birthed in perfect love and that’s from Jesus and 1 John 4-18,” said the 24-year-old McDermott. “That’s been my verse because I was always scared of two metres. I knew in my body I could do a lot higher but the fear aspect of high jump is the thing that gets to you with the mind.”
Edwards and McDermott were among 15 Australians included on Sunday in an Australian track and field team for the Tokyo Olympics that could eventually number more than 70.
Dani Stevens, the 2009 world champion, will head to her fourth Games seeking an elusive first Olympic medal after winning a record 14th national Australian discus title.
Other athletes to guarantee their selection after winning their events at the trials on Sunday were Riley Day (women’s 200m), Liz Clay (100m hurdles), Catriona Bisset (women’s 800m), Brooke Stratton (women’s long jump) and Genevieve Gregson (women’s 3000m steeplechase).
Having already bettered the qualifying standard on several occasions, reigning Commonwealth champion Kurtis Marschall was also named, despite failing to clear a height in the men’s pole vault.