Next eventOlympic GamesParis-St-Denis 20241 Aug 2024

Report14 Apr 2024

Denny throws Australian record to top list of 14 named for Paris


Matt Denny at the Australian Championships (© Getty Images)

Matt Denny comes from the small (population 1000) town of Allora, 150km south-west of Brisbane and 60km away from the nearest major city, the regional hub of Toowoomba.

They speak plainly out there, and usually with an economy of words, so when Denny tells you he’s “no b--- s---” about winning an Olympic medal in Paris this year, you take him seriously.

Speaking of economy, Denny maximised his outputs in winning the discus at the Australian Championships in Adelaide (11-14 April) with a national record throw of 69.35m. That performance guaranteed him selection for Paris and he was one of 14 athletes making up the first of three tranches of nominations to the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC).

Denny’s efforts were laser focused from his “one and done” performance in the qualifying round on the first day of the senior titles. He threw 66.68m – a championship record – packed up his gear and left.

The 2023 Diamond League winner’s final was executed with similar precision. His national and championship record throw came in the fifth round, but there was nothing ‘last ditch’ about it. Three of his efforts surpassed his qualifying championship record. His first, second, third, fifth and sixth-ditch efforts would all have won the gold medal as would his fourth-round ‘walk out’ foul.

Denny finished fourth at the Tokyo Olympics and has finished sixth, sixth and fourth at the past three World Championships. His big wins have been in the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and last year’s Diamond League final in Eugene.

To say he is hungry for a medal would be an understatement. As Bruce Springsteen put it in Dancing in the Dark, he’s just about starving to death. No kidding.

“Everyone knows I’m no BS when it comes to majors,” said Denny about his ambitions for Paris – and beyond. “I’m there to compete and to win medals and to try to win championships.”

A 69.35m gives him a few more weapons.

First tranche of Paris 2024 team

Joining Denny as nominations to the Paris team after the championships were high jump pair Nicola Olyslagers and Eleanor Patterson, middle-distance runners Peter Bol, Claudia Hollingsworth, Abbey Caldwell (all 800m) and Jessica Hull (1500m), Lauren Ryan (10,000m), Michelle Jenneke (100m hurdles) and Chris Mitrevski (long jump).

In addition, race walkers Jemima Montag, Rebecca Henderson, Rhydian Cowley and Kyle Swan were nominated to the AOC. The 10,000m championships were held at last December’s Zatopek meeting and a subsequent national record and selection standard also saw Lauren Ryan included in the tranche.

Jemima Montag on her way to victory in Adelaide

Jemima Montag on her way to victory in Adelaide (© Getty Images)

Under the nomination criteria, those in the first tranche had to have achieved the automatic qualifying standard and competed at least twice in the Australian domestic season. This clause tripped the winner of the highly competitive men’s 1500m – US college-based Adam Spencer – who had achieved the standard but competed only at the nationals.

Rising star Hollingsworth turned 19 on the day between the heats and final of the 800m. You would have thought she had been racing for years, however, judged by the manner of her win in the deepest event on the women’s roster at the championships. Four women had the standard coming into the championship and the four finished in the top four places. But Hollingsworth never looked anything but the winner as she tracked national record-holder Catriona Bisset through a quick first lap. Hollingsworth took control in the final 200 metres on the way to her first senior title in 1:58.40.

Caldwell was second in 1:59.01, just ahead of the former 400m star who is moving up, Bendere Oboya, whose 1:59.33 saw her catch the tiring Bisset in the final 50 metres. Bisset’s 1:59.87 made it four Australian women under two minutes in the same race.

If the 800m was the deepest event on the women’s programme, the high jump was the sharpest with 2022 world champion and 2023 world silver medallist Patterson meeting world indoor champion, Olympic silver medallist and world bronze medallist Olyslagers. Olyslagers won the battle this day, clearing 2.01m before failing three times at 2.06m.

Nicola Olyslagers at the Australian Championships

Nicola Olyslagers at the Australian Championships (© Getty Images)

Patterson, who has had an injury-interrupted domestic season, cleared a season’s best 1.95m and had a couple of decent attempts at 1.99m.

The men’s 800m followed a similar trajectory to the women’s with relative newcomer Luke Boyes being passed and re-passed by Bol in the final straight on the way to winning in a personal best 1:44.73. Bol, who had to work his way out of a box in the back-straight, looked the winner but Boyes fought back impressively to win by a couple of metres.

Emphasising the exclusiveness of membership in this first tranche, however, Boyes could not be a confirmed nomination because he has not got the standard, while Bol was confirmed because he has achieved it. Ultimately, both appear certain to be in the French capital later in the year.

Mitrevski produced an 8.32m last-round jump to take the men’s long jump title and wrap up a place in the Olympic team. Mitrevski had been leading with 8.07m before his monster final effort.

In the women’s 100m hurdles, Jenneke clinched a place in her second Olympic team with a victory in 12.88 from Liz Clay.

Spencer triumphs over super-strong 1500m field but must wait

The 1500m was the strongest men’s event of the championships. Three qualifiers – Adam Spencer, Stewart McSweyn and teenage star Cameron Myers – plus several others poised to achieve that mark.

Adam Spencer wins the 1500m at the Australian Championships

Adam Spencer wins the 1500m at the Australian Championships (© Getty Images)

Living up to the build-up, seven men were in a position to win the race at the bell. All of them could still do so as they entered the final straight.

Spencer had the best kick, but his win in 3:37.68 was not enough to get him into the first group of nominations. Ollie Hoare, second in 3:37.83, likewise could not be named because injury last year means he does not have a qualifier. Third placed Jess Hunt has run 3:33.60 this year against the 3:35.50. Close, but again, no cigar. McSweyn and Myers, fourth and fifth likewise, could not be selected as it would block some of those ahead of them from making the final team.

So, the best race lived up to expectations, but no selection as yet. Three will get to Paris, but which three remains in doubt until the final deadline.

There was no such problem for Hull, who just races everything and, domestically at least, wins everything. She ran a 60-second final lap to win the women’s 1500m in 4:01.39 ahead of Georgia Griffith and Linden Hall who, like many others, will have to wait another day.

World champion Nina Kennedy won the women’s pole vault, while world bronze medallists Mackenzie Little and Kurtis Marschall claimed respective javelin and pole vault titles, but they must also wait on final nomination for the Paris team.

Len Johnson for World Athletics

- Australian Championships results