Leading Australian medal hopes in Beijing
STEVE HOOKER (men’s pole vault): As soon as you gain entry to the six-metre club, you’ve arrived. Commonwealth champion Steve Hooker finally did so early this year. Finished a disappointing ninth at least year’s world titles, although that happens even to the very best on occasion in this most unpredictable of events. The gold medal favourite is American Brad Walker, who has dominated the world scene since spending the summer of 2006-07 training and competing in Australia.
CRAIG MOTTRAM (5,000m): After a disappointing 13th-place finish at the world titles last year, Mottram has deliberately assumed a much lower profile in 2008. Bronze at the 2005 world championships and silver at the 2006 Commonwealth Games indicated he was on the verge of a major breakthrough. Still a much-feared runner at the highest level, although this is an extremely tough event to win on the big stage. Especially with alltime greats Bernard Lagat and Kenenisa Bekele in the field.
LUKE ADAMS (men’s 20km walk): One of the most consistent performers in Australian track and field, as evidenced by three straight top-10 finishes at the world championships. Also claimed silver behind Nathan Deakes in the 20km at the last two Commonwealth Games. In a discipline where the threat of disqualification is ever-present, Adams rarely attracts the attention of the judges. With reigning 50km world champion Deakes absent with a hamstring injury, Adams and Jane Saville (women’s 20km) assume the roles as Australia’s leading walkers.
SALLY MCLELLAN (100m hurdles): Her official target is still a berth in the final, but so fierce is McLellan’s competitive spirit that a medal is not out of the question. Slashed 13-hundredths of a second off her own national record in clocking a winning effort of 12.58 seconds at a meet in Switzerland in early July – a time that would have won gold at three of the previous four Olympics. Would almost certainly have qualified in the 100m flat as well, but has decided wisely to focus on her stronger event in Beijing.
MEN’s 4x400m RELAY
With young guns Joel Milburn and Sean Wroe joining the likes of Commonwealth individual champ John Steffensen and Clinton Hill, on paper this team looks even stronger than that which won a shock silver medal in Athens.
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