Athletics Australia’s selectors face a nightmarish decision of which of our out of form 400m runners should be part of the London Olympic team.
Post-London there will be serious questions asked at the highest levels of the sport’s administration how a targeted program with a history of recent success had gone down hill so quickly, with the 4x400m relay team only doing enough to secure it’s berth for London some weeks ago, and with a reliance on 400m hurdlers to do so.
But for now, the issue is who deserves a place in the squad of six for London.
There are two clear selections in Steven Solomon and John Steffensen – the only two athletes to have run under 46 seconds on more than one occasion this calendar year and the national champion and Olympic trial winners respectively.
That leaves four places available. Here’s the contenders:
Offereins has been consistent in his performances, albeit at a level far less than his potential. He finished second at both the Olympic Trials and Australian Championships, was a member of the quartets that have recorded both of Australia’s qualifying performances and has the third fastest time this year (45.96) behind Solomon and Steffensen.
Unfortunately Offereins is a shadow of the athlete that ran 44.86 seconds in 2009, but nonetheless is highly deserving of selection compared to the quality and consistency of performances from his peers.
Tristan Thomas and Brendan Cole
The 400m hurdlers are problematic for the selectors in that neither have a flat 400m to their name this season. However, both were part of the quartet that moved Australia into the top 16 in the world last month, and pending Thomas’ selection in the 400m hurdles after two recent A-qualifiers, both will be in London anyway and in good form.
Thomas was also a member of the team in Daegu last year and a member of the bronze medal winning team in Berlin two years earlier, while Cole was a member of the Commonwealth Games winning team. However, their personal bests are 45.86 and 47.44 respectively, so selectors would be relying on the quality of relay splits to select them.
There’s a strong argument that naming the five athletes above would provide a solid foundation for the 4x400m relay team and that the sixth spot should be a speculative selection. The athlete would be unlikely to get a run but for injury to two of the above, or by way of dramatic improvement in form (another 45.5 man is much needed if the team has any aspirations higher than making the final, or even to do so).
Wroe historically is very consistent athlete, with occasional flashes of brilliance. Unfortunately neither can be said of this year, with the former Eric Hollingsworth coached athlete having his worst season since 2005, with only a 46.38 season best to his name.
Wroe had his appendix removed recently, and has struggled with form, with his most recent run yesterday being a sixth place in 47.48 after a 46.62 last weekend. Ran his PB in 2009 (45.07) but season bests have steadily declined since (45.40, 45.93, 46.38).
A semi-finalist four years ago in Beijing with a personal best of 44.80 seconds, Milburn missed the entire domestic season. In the last couple of weeks he’s returned to the track and improved every run, to the extent that he was second yesterday to Steve Solomon in 46.54 seconds (to Solo’s 45.80s) in windy conditions in Queensland, but notably defeated Offereins and other relay aspirants.
At only 20 years of age Beck was a surprise second at the Australian Championships in 46.30 seconds after running a 46.07 second PB in the semi-finals. Form has slipped since with runs of 46.71, 47.16 and 46.87.
Was a member of the 2010 Commonwealth Games winning quartet. Ran his season’s best of 46.25 seconds for a fourth place at the Sydney Track Classic before sixth and fourth places at the Olympic Trials and Australian Championships respectively. Recent form similar to Beck’s (46.91, 46.73, 47.06).
Who would you select in the Australian 4x400m quartet?
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