Unsung Australian hurdler McLennan eyeing more than silver
BERLIN: Australian Sally McLellan is aiming to prove her Olympic silver medal from the 100m hurdles in Beijing was no fluke when the world athletics championships begin here this weekend.
Last August, the 22-year-old won the silver medal behind Dawn Harper of the USA after just holding off Canada’s Priscilla Lopes-Schliep in a photo-finish in one of the biggest surprises on the Beijing track.
Her success captured the imagination of the sports-mad Australian public and she is now looking to underline her current form by stepping up to the medals podium at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium.
After US hurdler Lolo Jones, who ran 12.47secs earlier this season, failed to win a place at the US trials, McLellan comes here as the next fastest over the hurdles having clocked 12.50secs.
Although relaxed, McLellan is excited and ready to race.
“When the world champs come around, you put your head down and get ready to race, I am looking forward to it and doing what we came here to do,” she said. “It’s exciting, you can’t afford to put a foot wrong and I find it a great challenge.
“It doesn’t feel any different than Beijing, I am going in with the feeling I can do something exciting, but that doesn’t scare me.
“My aim is to get to the final and anything can happen there. I just want to take everything I can out of it and not leaving anything else in the tank.
“Getting a medal would be fantastic, no matter what colour it is.”
With Jones absent, McLellan is unconcerned about who she will run against and is focused on doing her job.
“It doesn’t really make any differ- ence to me whether she (Jones) is here or not, I don’t have time to worry about other athletes too much.
“I don’t feel the pressure, I come here and try to enjoy myself more than anything. I just want to go for it. I am not afraid of any other athletes, you have to focus solely on yourself.
“A few seconds can make a huge difference, you could hit a hurdle and go from first to seventh in a flash, you can’t afford to lose concentration for a second.”
McLellan admits being so far from home does have it’s problems.
“I have been in Europe since July 1, I only speak to my family once or twice a week, which can be tough,” she admitted. “But this is what we are paid for, this is our job. I am lucky enough that my mum and fiance have come over to be with me and that helps.”
Bizarrely, the official world champi- onship programme does not even mention McLellan amongst the favourites for the 100m hurdles, despite her fast time, but the Australian was taking the news in her considerable stride.
“You can’t afford to worry about what other people think of you, you just have to go out and do the best you can,”she said. “”I am not in it for the recognition anyway.”
With the eyes of her country on her, McLellan said she turned to compatriot Cathy Freeman, who won 400m gold at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, for advice on how to deal with nerves.
She said: “I asked her about how she coped and she admitted she often had to go to the toilet every time she thought about racing at the major champs. She just said take a few deep breaths and make yourself relax and enjoy the occasion. I think that’s the best advice I can take.” – Sapa-AFP
MEDAL HUNTING: Sally McLellan… the pride of Australia.