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Opinion

Athletics deserves more attention in Australia

Roar Rookie
18th September, 2020
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Stewart McSweyn is a star of Australian athletics. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images for IAAF)
Roar Rookie
18th September, 2020
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1804 Reads

Stewart McSweyn is the Chris Judd of Australian athletics, if not better… much better.

In a sporting climate that is currently dominated by the AFL and cricket, it is hard for me to sit here and comprehend the lack of media attention drawn to this man.

In keeping with the theme, people would rather speak of Stuart Dew than speak of Stewart McSweyn, the mayor of King Island.

The rise of McSweyn through the athletic world has been nothing short of incredible. Going from potentially giving up on the sport in 2014 to locking himself into an automatic spot for Tokyo, his form and tenacity hasn’t taken a hit throughout a six-year period.

In any sport, a consistent streak of six years is admired, revered and even considered unbelievable due to the consistency and dedication that it takes to be the best, but that’s just light work for McSweyn.

So, who even is this guy? Well, do you remember Craig Mottram? The man who put the entire nation on his back in 2006 and took on the might of the Africans in the 2006 Commonwealth Games?

Well, McSweyn is on the way to being if not already arrived at the point of being better than who we admired to be the best ever.

Now, when I say that, I do not for a single second take away the accomplishments, tenacity and dedication shown by Mottram over a decade-long period. However in life there always comes a time when the best gets beaten, and that may be happening right before our eyes.

In his career, Mottram was able to capture a World Championship and Commonwealth Games medal at the ages of 25 and 26 respectively, ages entering the prime years of a distance runner’s career.

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The Australian flag

(Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

From there, Mottram went on to set each of his personal-best times barring one, his 5000-metre national record of 12:55.76 – a time that many believed would take decades to get near. Well, maybe change the dialogue to years if not months from now at the rate McSweyn is snapping necks and cashing cheques on the track.

Within the last year, McSweyn has made an absolute mess of the Australian domestic circuit and is now starting to knock down the door of replicating the form on a global scale.

After snatching the Australian 10,000-metre record last December with a time of 27:23, his form has translated to the shorter distances, often a common criticism for those who dominate over the longer forms of the sport. He has gone on to wheel and deal his way to personal best times of 3:31.48 at the 1500 metres (second of all time) and 7:28.02 at 3000 metres (a national record).

People who have a vested interest in athletics understand just how fast those times are and how admired they should be.

But part of the reason the general public cannot recognise the greatness in front of them is because they may not understand just how fast it is. So, let me try and break it down.

From what I have been able to dissect, the average AFL player runs a 3000-metre time trial in ten-and-a-half to 12 minutes. I understand that endurance is not the main feature of an AFL player, however, whenever the media gets a report of any player running under ten minutes, their stamina is then rated as elite.

To put this in context, McSweyn would be finished three minutes or nearly a full kilometre before your average AFL player.

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Even compared to the elite of the modern game Mark Blicavs, McSweyn would be close to finishing an entire lap ahead of the best. The reason I draw this comparison is not to take away from the endurance of AFL players, but rather to paint a picture of just how truly spectacular these times by McSweyn are in comparison to what we as modern society deem to be an elite standard of running.

My question is why don’t we know more about this? Is athletics boring or not worthy of mainstream media attention?

And these feats by Australian athletes stem far beyond pinning our hopes on just McSweyn. Jessica Hull is a 25-year-old middle-distance athlete who just broke an Australian record last week only to receive media attention from athletic forums and not much more.

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Time and time again, athletes are achieving amazing things and putting up performances that past generations could only dream of, yet they are overshadowed by other sports. It does not make sense.

We as a society want to nurture and encourage kids to chase their dreams and be rewarded with more than just a time in history and a ‘good job’ by those who care.

They deserve to be recognised by the general population for their amazing accomplishments and truly mind-boggling feats of human performance.

This needs more attention. Athletics needs more attention. I do not have the answer, and I really wish I did, but something needs to change.

To McSweyn, well, keep doing what you are doing because it’s certainly working. As one of the biggest names in not only domestic athletics but now globally, it would be encouraging to see the Australian media take an interest in the rapidly developing athletes of the modern era.