On the biggest night of athletics at the London Olympic Games – when Usain Bolt stole the show defending his 100m title in an Olympic Record 9.63s - Australian 400m runner Steve Solomon (NSW) put on his own show by qualifying for the 400m Olympic final at just 19 years of age.
Solomon ran a personal best of 44.97 seconds to finish third in his semi-final and be the fastest non-automatic qualifier for the final on Monday night.
He was understandably pumped at becoming the first Australian Olympic 400m finalist since Darren Clark at Seoul 1988.
“I’m really stoked I came into the race nervous and I really wanted to make that final and I really believed in myself,” Solomon said.
“When I crossed the line I saw that I’d broken the 45 second barrier and I came third and I didn’t actually think I would make it as soon as I finished but I was really happy running a personal best and getting under the 45 second barrier.”
Solomon was looking to achieve even more in the final.
“Two personal bests in two days and I’ll go now and recover and try for three! I’m really looking forward to running the final and giving it absolutely everything I’ve got for myself and my country.”
The teenager from Sydney who has only been training seriously for three years with respected coach Fira Dvoskina, is now the eighth fastest Australian of all-time.
Two other young Australians hit the track on a magic night of athletics. With 23-year-old Canberra hurdler Lauren Boden (ACT) having a good night and sneaking into the semi-finals of the 400 metre hurdlers while 22-year-old Ryan Gregson (NSW) got run out of the 1500m semis but knows he has many Olympics still ahead of him.
Boden ran the best race of her European season when it mattered most. Running from lane one she needed a top-four finish to automatically progress. Her fifth place and 56.27 seconds ended up being enough by 0.02s after an anxious wait.
She was happy with the run but looking to take it up a gear in the semi-final.
“Since I’ve been in Europe, about six weeks now, that’s been my best run,” Boden said.
“I felt great. The tracks amazing it was a bit windy which is not ideal for hurdles with changing you strides but I’m happy with that.
“My flat speed is going so well I’m almost on top of the hurdles, actually slowing down because of that and that acceleration deceleration in a race is not ideal.
For the semi-finals tomorrow night the 23-year-old won’t leave wondering what if.
“I’ll hold nothing back, kamikaze go for it and maybe try a different stride pattern. Who knows?
“Not sure how realistic that is. I can run 14 –strides so we’ll see.”
Australian record-holder Gregson was in the first semi-final of the 1500 metres. The boy from Bulli south of Sydney worked hard to position himself off the shoulder of Kenyan 2008 Olympic Champion Asbel Kiprop but at the bell when the pace really changed he was swamped and couldn’t go with the pack.
He knew his Olympics were over and he crossed the line 12th in 3:51.86 some 20 seconds off his Australian record time set in 2010.
“I wasn’t 100% in my race today. My body wasn’t quite right which was a shame. I’ll have to wait another four years,” Gregson said.
“In the first round I got clipped 100m in and got a slight tear in my calf, which is strapped up now. However the adrenaline kicked in and I didn’t feel it.
“I found myself at the front, which would have been perfect if I had the legs in the end, but I wasn’t quite there. I’ll get there but not this year.”
“500m to go it was going to be a long way, it’s unfortunate to run like that. It’s a shame but I’ll be better.
The men’s 100m final lived up to the hype. Bolt ran faster than he did in Beijing with 9.63 seconds, his training partner Yohan Blake won silver in a personal best 9.75, American Justin Gatlin ran a PB 9.79 for bronze and Tyson Gay was unlucky in fourth with an incredible 9.80.
Other Olympic Champions decided on Day 9 in the Olympic Stadium were Olga Rypakova (KAZ) in the women’s triple jump , Krisztian Pars (HUN) in the men’s hammer throw, Sanya Richards-Ross (USA) women’s 400m and men’s 3000m Steeplechase was won by Kenyan Ezekiel Kemboi.
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