Reigning world champions Nathan Deakes and Jana Rawlinson headline the shortlist of athletes nominated for the prestigious title of 2007 Telstra Athlete of the Year.
To be announced at the Sofitel Melbourne this Sunday, December 2, 10 awards across a range of categories will be presented.
Vying for the Male Athlete of the Year distinction in conjunction with Deakes, will be fellow walker Luke Adams, distance runner Craig Mottram and pole vaulter Steve Hooker.
In the running for the Female Athlete of the Year title alongside Rawlinson, will be rising sprint hurdles star Sally McLellan, steeplechase athlete Donna MacFarlane and distance runner Benita Johnson.
Australian Institute of Sport race walker Deakes has experienced a sensational 12 months pounding the pavement both here in Australia and overseas. A 50km world record on home soil in Geelong last December, followed by his first world title in Osaka in August, catapulted the 30 year-old to greatness on the global stage this year.
Rawlinson’s amazing comeback year has been well documented. After giving birth to son Cornelis in December, the 25 year-old battled a number of niggling injuries before returning to competition for the first time in May, after being on a hiatus since the Commonwealth Games.
Lining up on the blocks seven times in Europe prior to the World Championships, Rawlinson claimed victory on six occasions in the 400m hurdles. The super mum dominated the early rounds in Osaka before famously clinching her second world title in Osaka over reigning Olympic champion and world record holder Yuliya Pechenkina.
After struggling early in the race, a determined Luke Adams battled on in Osaka’s sweltering conditions to finish a gallant seventh in the 20km race walk.
Finishing second in three out of five races, the 2007 national champion capped off his consistent international season, accumulating sufficient points to comfortably take out the 2007 IAAF Race Walking Challenge. The most prestigious race series in the discipline of walking, the 31 year old stamped his name in the record books alongside race walking kings Robert Korzeniowski (Poland) and Francisco Fernández (Spain).
Despite an uncharacteristically poor run in the 5000m final at the World Championships, Craig Mottram, 27, the recipient of the 2006 Male Athlete of the Year award, featured in a number of memorable victories this year.
‘Buster’ produced a new Australian indoor 3000m record at the Boston Games, cruised to a commanding victory over two miles at the London Grand Prix, took out the Emil Zatopek 5000m against a star studded African field at the Golden Spike meeting in Ostrava and smashed his own Australian two mile record against a crack field at the Prefontaine Classic.
Ranked No. 1 in the world at the end of 2006, Steve Hooker continued to soar in 2007, with seven podium finishes in Europe, a new Australian indoor record of 5.81m in Boston, his first national title and a season’s best of 5.91m in Perth earlier in the year.
The 25 year-old made a tactical decision to miss 5.81m and consequently paid a high price in Osaka, finishing ninth - a result which will spur him on ahead of next year’s Olympic campaign.
Sally McLellan’s performance at the World Championships was one of the shining lights. Opening her campaign with a scorching 11.14 sec (+1.7) in the 100m, the second fastest time ever by an Australian behind Melinda Gainsford-Taylor (11.12 (+1.9), McLellan powered through the rounds before being knocked out in the semi-finals – the 21 year-old only the fourth Australian woman to reach the second last stage of the worlds.
Displaying the sheer guts and determination for which the six-time national champion is renowned, McLellan continued to battle the sweltering conditions in the 100m hurdles, pipped for a berth in the final by just two places.
Earlier in the year, McLellan finally surpassed Pam Ryan’s long standing 100m hurdles Australian record which had eluded her for the entire domestic season, before lowering it even further to 12.71s at the Osaka Grand Prix two months later.
With her times here and in Europe placing her amongst the world's best, the meteoric rise of Tasmania’s favourite daughter, Donna MacFarlane, has greatly impressed her peers. In her pet event, the 3000m steeplechase, the 30 year-old secured victories in Brisbane, Doha and Lucerne, in addition to a season’s best performance (second – 9:26.63) at the IAAF Golden League meet in Oslo.
Disaster struck in the opening round of the World Championships when MacFarlane lost her shoe 50 metres in the race, with the resulting horrific blisters forcing her to withdraw.
Turning her attention to the marathon ahead of the Beijing Olympics, Benita Johnson lowered her personal best to 2:22:36 in an extremely cold and windy Chicago Marathon last year, breaking Lisa Martin’s 18 year-old Australian record. The 28 year-old battled surprisingly hot and humid conditions in the London Marathon (seventh – 2:29:47) before once again tackling the Chicago (fifth – 2:38:30).
Johnson’s World Championships campaign was something she’d rather forget. Tripping over Ethiopia’s Mestawet Tufa, who stopped to collect her lost shoe in the 10,000m, and incurring a nasty gash on her leg courtesy of a stray spike, Johnson picked herself up off the track to finish a gallant 17th.
In other awards, 2007 World Youth champion Vicky Parnov (pole vault), and 2006 World Junior champions Robbie Crowther (long jump) and Dani Samuels (discus) will contest the Asics Junior Athlete of the Year.
McLellan’s mentor Sharon Hannan, esteemed AIS coach Craig Hilliard and AWD pioneer Alison O’Riordan are in the running for Coach of the Year - Senior Athlete.
Covering the period of July 2006 to October 2007, the following have been shortlisted as finalists:
Male Athlete of the Year
Steve Hooker VIC/WAIS
Nathan Deakes VIC/AIS
Craig Mottram VIC/VIS
Luke Adams NSW/AIS
Female Athlete of the Year
Jana Rawlinson NSW/VIS
Sally McLellan QLD/QAS
Donna MacFarlane TAS/TIS
Benita Johnson VIC/VIS
Coach of the Year - Senior Athlete
Sharon Hannan QLD
Craig Hilliard AIS
Alison O'Riordan AIS
Coach of the Year - Junior Athlete
Denis Knowles NSW
Richard Huggins VIC
Lindsay Burgoyne VIC
Asics Junior Athlete of the Year
Dani Samuels NSW/NSWIS
Robbie Crowther QLD/AIS
Vicky Parnov WA/WAIS
Female Athlete of the Year - AWD
Amanda Fraser AIS
Katherine Proudfoot NSW
Lisa McIntosh AIS
Male Athlete of the Year - AWD
Heath Francis AIS
Tim Sullivan VIS
Kurt Fearnley NSWIS
Winners will also be announced for Outstanding Media Coverage of the Year, Photograph of the Year and the Novotel Volunteer of the Year on Sunday evening.
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