‘How good’s this?’ Australian track and field athletes revel in successful Olympics

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With the Australian flag draped around her shoulders like a superhero cape, Kelsey-Lee Barber bounded towards the small contingent of journalists waiting for her deep inside the Olympic Stadium on Friday night. “How good’s this?” she exclaimed.

Barber was referring to her bronze medal in the women’s javelin, won just minutes beforehand. But her rhetorical question had wider resonance too. Tokyo 2020 has been a bumper competition for Australia’s track and field athletes – with a big day to come on Saturday.

Australia is internationally renowned for its prowess in many sports. Several notable exceptions aside, track and field events are not among them. While athletics accounts for 21 of the 150-odd gold medals won by Australia in Olympic history, second only to swimming, just four of these have come in the past three decades. Australia dominates in the pool and has traditionally been strong in rowing, sailing and cycling – on the track and in the field, Australian athletes have had less success.

It was a notable moment then, when, midway through proceedings on Friday, five Australian women were in action in athletics finals at the same time. In the javelin, Barber, Kathryn Mitchell and Mackenzie Little had all made the final eight. As they were deep in competition, the women’s 1500m final, featuring Australians Linden Hall and Jessica Hull, was run and won (Hall finished sixth, Hull 11th). “To have that many amazing athletes in the stadium – it was absolutely unreal,” said Little afterwards.

“I am so proud of the Aussie girls – the way we represented our country tonight out on the field and on the track, it’s incredible,” added Barber. “And I hope that we’ve inspired some other young girls to throw or be on track. This is a beautiful sport – and we’ve done ourselves proud.”

Barber’s bronze medal continues a positive Tokyo 2020 athletics meet for Australia. Rohan Browning became the first Australian to win a 100m heat since 1956. Just 23 and now only one one-hundredth of a second away from breaking the 10 second barrier, Browning has a bright future. Peter Bol then inspired the nation with his performances in the 800m, the first Australian to reach a final in the event since 1968. In the men’s high-jump final, Brandon Starc finished fifth.

On Thursday, Ashley Moloney became the first Australian to stand on the podium in the decathlon in Olympic history. His success was all the more special after compatriot and friend Cedric Dubler sacrificed his own race in the final event, the 1500m, to pace Moloney and scream encouragement to ensure the Australian finished close enough to a rival not to lose the bronze medal. “I could hear his voice bouncing in my cranium like a bat out of hell,” Moloney laughed afterwards.

Cedric Dubler (right) congratulates teammate Ashley Moloney after he took bronze in the decathlon. Photograph: Martin Rickett/AAP

Post-Tokyo, Australia’s athletes will regroup and then plan for the years ahead. Some will head straight to Europe for Diamond League meets, while others will endure their 14-day stint in hotel quarantine in Australia before returning to training.

They face a busy calendar. Some will contest the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Serbia next March; more will then head to Oregon in the United States for the World Athletics Championships in July 2022. Barely a week later, the Commonwealth Games will begin in Birmingham, England. From there, the two-year countdown to Paris 2024 will be underway.

“The Aussie team has really brought it to this Olympics,” said Barber. “This has got to be some of our best results across both the track and field and our race walks. Wow. Let’s just keep going – we have a young team, so that with the results we’ve seen from them, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a couple more medals in Paris.”

But first an exciting Saturday looms for Australia at the Olympic Stadium. In the women’s high jump final, Australian pair Nicola McDermott and Eleanor Patterson are both strong medal prospects; McDermott is one of just four women in the final to have cleared the two metre mark this season. In the men’s 1500m, Australian duo Oliver Hoare and Stewart McSewyn are both ranked in the top 10 in the world. McSewyn is one of only three runners in the final to have broken the 3 minutes and 30 second barrier this season.

A medal for any of the four in the final night of athletics would conclude Australia’s week at the Olympic Stadium on a high. But even if they don’t find a spot on the podium, Tokyo 2020 has been an upbeat meet for Australia’s track and field athletes. “How good’s this?” Barber had asked on Friday. Pretty good indeed.

Olympics Day 15 highlights Allyson Felix wins record 11th medal; U.S. men’s 4x400 team also takes gold

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With no family or spectators allowed at the Games to minimize the spread of covid, Jordan Windle told the “Today” show that he wanted to make his dad proud, wherever he is watching: “I wish he was there, but that doesn’t really change what I’m going there to do: to have fun, show off a little bit and put on a show for everyone. That’s going to be my intention and I’m hopefully going to make him proud.”

Allyson Felix is now the most decorated woman in Olympic track and field history

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USA’s Allyson Felix reacts after winning the bronze medal in the 400m on August 6. (David Ramos/Getty Images)

With a bronze medal win in the 400 meter race, Allyson Felix has become the most decorated female track and field Olympian.

Felix has 10 medals across 5 Olympic games, matching Carl Lewis’ US record.

She ran a 49.46, her second-fastest time ever. That was 0.05 seconds faster than the time she ran to win silver in Rio 2016.

The road to Tokyo has not been easy. Felix is an Olympic veteran used to pristine training conditions, but the last year has been very different. She trained on empty soccer fields and beaches.

Felix’s two-year-old daughter Camryn has also made a few appearances on the track as the Olympian has juggled motherhood and training.

“Having a young daughter at home, that’s a whole new world,” she told CNN previously. “It’s given me a different motivation.”