World results have Aussies ripe for Rio
A POSITIVE world championships experience has Australian head coach Craig Hilliard bullish about the track and field team’s prospects at next year’s Rio Olympics.
In the lead-up Hilliard had feared no medals but he will leave Beijing with two silvers – long-jumper Fabrice Lapierre and walker Jared Tallent – and a bunch of promising youngsters.
He will have at least six experienced performers, including team captain Sally Pearson, back for Rio de Jan- eiro so the outlook is brighter than expected.
“Overall I am happy with our younger brigade, I think the younger athletes really stood up out there, Hilliard said.
The official target for athletics set by the Australian Sports Commission for Rio is between one to three medals with no guarantee of gold.
“We are (in the ballpark),” Hilliard said.
‘‘We sit somewhere between two and four. We want to do better than that.’’
Leading the youth charge in Beijing was high-jumper Eleanor Patterson (pictured) who finished eighth in her first major championships while Brandon Starc made the men’s high-jump final after a personal best in qualifying.
Walker Dane Bird-Smith finished top eight in the 20km event, 400m runner Anneliese Rubie was impressive while hurdler Michelle Jenneke and long-jumper Brooke Stratton showed promise.
“It was a massive step for her (Patterson) in terms of her athletic journey,” Hilliard said.
Hilliard said he would continue to speak with the teenager and her long-time coach David Green about becoming part of the Athletics Australia network and accepting financial assistance.
“I have had some discussions with David already and I want to follow up that dialogue with him post-here when we do the full debrief with Eleanor and him,” he said.