Should Steffensen even be in the 4x400m relay team?
On Thursday, the ninth of August, the Australian Men’s 4x400m relay team will line-up in the heats. In recent times the this team has had much success, winning silver at the 2004 Olympics and more recently bronze at the 2009 World Championships.
They won gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
In the last month, however, most of the publicity surrounding this team has been focused on the selection of World Junior silver medallist Steve Solomon in the individual 400m over the man who won the Olympic trials, John Steffensen.
Both men had posted “B” qualifying times and as such their selection was at the discretion of the selectors.
After threatening to withdraw from the games all together, Steffensen has since come out and stated that he will run in the 4x400m for Australia.
But, is he even one of our fastest four runners?
While Australia qualified 13th for the Olympics, this standard is based on the average of the best two performances from each country in the qualifying period. If you look at just a the single best performance over that period, Australia slips to 15th out of the 16 teams competing.
With the top three in each heat and the next two quickest times going through to the final, Australia can not afford to rest its best athletes during the heats. We need our best team to be running just to qualify for the final, and Steffensen, on current form, is not in our top four runners.
Since running in the 45s twice in the domestic season, Steffensen injured himself at the Stawell gift and has not been in the same form since, running 46.59 and 46.11 in his two races.
Meanwhile, Solomon, Offereins, Cole and Thomas went to Daegu to qualify the team. I am told they ran splits of 45.2, 45.2 45.5 and 45.5 respectively.
Since then Solomon has run a personal best over 400m and made the 400m final at the Olympics, Cole ran a personal best over 400 hurdles at the Olympics and Thomas ran a season’s best at the Olympics.
On those relay splits from May, Steffensen would struggle to make the team, and since then three of the four boys have shown they are in better form then they were in Japan.
If it wasn’t for those four boys we would not even have a 4x400m relay team at the Olympics. They have all made themselves available to run for Australia.
Thomas and Offereins were part of the medal winning team from 2009 and Cole and Offereins were part of our 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medal winning team, that Steffensen made himself unavailable for (note that Joel Milburn, the other member of the relay squad for London, was in both of these relays).
It will be interesting to see who the selectors pick for the 4x400m relay, and even more interesting to see what times they each run and if the selectors were correct.
For Australia to have the best chance to medal, the team should be Solomon, Offereins, Cole and Thomas.