Recent results suggest Australian distance running is in an exciting renaissance phase. Three runners have stood out and recently produced Australian records on the world stage.
For any number of reasons, Cathy Freeman’s triumph in the 400m at the 2000 Sydney Olympics arguably stands alone in the annals of Australian track and field history.
Having lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony, Freeman carried the hopes of a nation to victory.
That she was the first indigenous athlete to win individual gold at Olympic level only added to the significance of her triumph.
Freeman’s place as an all-time Australian sporting great is unchallenged – and it always be.
But in winning gold in the 100m hurdles at the world titles in London on Saturday night, Sally Pearson can now lay claim to an even better record than Freeman in her favoured event at global championships.
Pearson’s three major titles came at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2011 and 2017 world championships.
Freeman’s three 400m titles were at the Sydney Olympics and the 1997 and 1999 world championships.
But Pearson has also won two major silver medals, while Freeman only has the one.
For the first time, a good case can be made that the 30-year-old Pearson is Australia’s greatest track and field athlete of the modern era.
Another interesting comparison is with the great Betty Cuthbert, who died earlier this month aged 79.
In the amateur era before the world championships, Cuthbert won four Olympic track gold medals in four different events.
Cuthbert is the only track and field athlete – male or female – to win Olympic titles in the 100m, 200m and 400m.