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The demise of Australian running since 2000

Roar Guru
10th July, 2014
12
1509 Reads

All is not well with Australian running.

Sure, we can point to global medal success by a few Australian runners since 2000. Since the Olympic Games 400-metre win by Cathy Freeman in 2000, Australia has produced a number of medalists: Jana Pitman (400m hurdles), Steve Mongehetti (marathon), Craig Mottram (5000m) and Sally Pearson (100m hurdles).

But, Table 1 (IAAF data) indicates that the performance of Australian runners has declined substantially since 2000 in terms of the number of top 50 individual performers. Whereas 31 Australians made the top 50 lists in 2000, the figure had declined to 11 by 2013.

In terms of the number of events where Australia had more than one individual among the top 50 world performers, Australia achieved this feat 10 times in 2000 but zero in 2013, thus highlighting a severe lack of depth in Australia’s running stocks at present.

Table 1
 

00

GB

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12

13

GB

100m Male

2

4

1

2

0

3

2

1

0

0

1

0

0

0

6

Female

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

1

1

0

1

200m Male

1

2

0

1

1

1

2

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

4

Female

3

1

2

2

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

2

400m Male

2

3

3

2

2

1

3

3

2

3

2

0

1

0

4

Female

3

2

0

2

1

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

4

800m Male

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

1

2

1

1

0

1

2

Female

3

2

2

2

0

0

0

1

2

1

0

0

0

0

3

1500m Male

0

2

1

1

0

2

2

0

0

3

2

1

1

1

2

Female

1

3

0

1

1

1

2

2

2

0

0

2

2

1

5

5000m Male

0

0

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

0

1

2

1

1

1

Female

2

2

1

1

0

0

3

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

1

10000m Male

2

1

3

2

0

1

0

0

1

2

0

1

0

1

2

Female

1

1

1

2

1

0

1

0

0

3

2

1

1

1

0

Marathon Male

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Female

ND

ND

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

100/110m Hurd

0

2

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

Female

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

400m hurdles M

3

2

0

0

0

0

1

0

1

2

0

1

2

1

6

Female

3

3

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

3

1

1

1

1

3

3000m steepleM

0

0

0

0

1

1

1

1

1

0

1

1

1

0

0

Female

2

1

2

0

0

2

3

2

1

0

0

0

1

1

1

Total

31

31

20

20

10

16

24

16

15

24

14

13

13

11

49

Year

00

GB

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12

13

GB

Table 2, which examines the top 100 world performer lists, also indicates a decline in the number of Australians from 59 in 2000 to 30 in 2013. More dramatic in terms of decline, the number of events per year where Australia has three or more individuals in the top 100 has reduced from 13 to just two in 2013.

Table 2: Number of Australians among top 100 world individuals for running events 2000-2013 (excluding 2001); Number of British athletes for years 2000 and 2013.

 

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00

GB

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12

13

GB

100m Male

2

5

2

2

1

3

6

3

0

0

3

0

0

0

10

Female

3

2

2

0

0

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

2

1

4

200m Male

4

5

2

1

2

3

2

NA

0

0

1

0

0

1

6

Female

5

3

2

2

1

1

0

0

0

1

1

1

1

1

4

400m Male

3

2

5

3

5

5

6

NA

4

7

4

2

2

0

5

Female

7

3

3

3

2

1

0

2

1

1

2

1

0

1

6

800m Male

3

3

1

1

0

0

0

NA

2

3

4

4

2

1

3

Female

4

4

2

3

1

0

1

3

3

1

1

1

1

2

4

1500m Male

1

5

2

1

3

3

2

4

5

3

5

4

5

4

4

Female

5

4

5

1

3

3

4

2

3

2

2

2

2

1

8

5000m Male

4

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

2

2

1

3

3

2

3

Female

6

2

2

1

2

2

3

0

1

0

3

1

3

1

3

10000m Male

2

3

4

2

0

2

0

0

2

4

2

2

1

5

2

Female

2

2

1

3

2

1

2

NA

0

5

2

1

2

1

0

Marathon Male

1

2

0

2

1

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Female

ND

ND

1

0

0

1

2

1

1

0

1

0

1

1

0

100/100m hurd Male

1

3

0

1

1

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

0

0

2

Female

2

4

2

1

2

2

1

2

1

1

1

1

1

1

2

400m hurd Male

3

3

1

0

1

0

3

1

2

2

1

1

2

2

6

Female

4

3

2

1

1

1

2

1

2

3

2

1

1

2

6

3000m steeple Male

3

2

0

1

1

2

3

3

3

1

1

1

1

2

3

Female

ND

ND

1

1

2

4

NA

3

1

0

0

2

1

3

Total

59

61

41

31

31

34

43

37

38

38

28

32

30

84

00

GB

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12

13

GB

So why the decline of Australian running?

Is Australia’s decline the result of a tougher stance by ASADA towards drugs? After all, WADA data indicates that there is still a long way to go before it can be claimed that all national IAAF affiliates have the same stringent level of testing.

Perhaps, but Great Britain has demonstrated that significant running success can still be achieved despite tougher national testing. In 2012, the ASADA conducted 245 drug tests on Australian track and field athletes, and UK Anti-Doping conducted 507 tests.

Great Britain, which had a similar number of top 50 and top 100 performers as Australia in 2000 (see tables 1 and 2), has improved substantially from 31 to 49 between 2000 and 2013 with regard to the top 50, and from 61 to 84 in relation to the top 100.

Further, the number of events per year where Great Britain has more than one individual among the top 50 world performers for a single event increased from 11 to 12, while the number of events where they had three or more individuals in the top 100 rose from 13 to 16.

Is Australia’s running decline the result of a lack of participants? Perhaps. Although Athletic Australia’s 2012-13 annual report suggests that 22,149 athletes were registered in 2012-13, numbers have hovered mostly between 14,000 and 16,000 for the period from 1999-2000 to 2010-11 after being around 25,000 during the 1970s.

The ABS also indicates that there were 45,900 boys and 42,700 girls (aged 5 to 14) registered in track and field during 2012, although it is suggested that a lack of cooperation between Little Athletics and Athletics Australia results in a high proportion of youngsters leaving the sport each year.

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Australian athletics also still receives substantial public resources, not far behind the UK when per capita spending is considered. While UK Sport indicates that athletics got £25,148,000 for the 2009-2013 period, and will receive £26,824,206 for the next period to Rio (2016) and beyond, Athletics Australia was given $6,570,000 for its high-performance program for 2013-14 alone, although just $296,400 for boosting participation.

In terms of direct payments to top athletes, while UK Sport provides a maximum award payment of £27,737 for a global athletics championship medallist and £20,804 for a top eight finish, Australia provides $40,000 for its small number of similar level athletes.

There are no excuses for Australia’s declining running performance beyond the nation doing more to encourage track and field participation. After all, Australia is blessed with good weather and an abundance of all-weather running tracks that are easily accessible to interested individuals.

In an era where regular global IAAF competition is more frequent, with a major global championship held three of every four years, along with a lucrative annual Diamond League circuit (14 meetings in 2014), Australian running has failed despite receiving substantial public resources towards its elite program.