Oceania athletes, as part of the Asia-Pacific team at the 2014 IAAF Continental Cup, found the going tough on day two of the competition. The big hope and defending shot put champion , Valerie Adams, unfortunately had to withdraw from the competition. She arrived at the Continental Cup with a bad elbow and arranged with the IAAF Medical Department to have an injection on the day of her event, so as to be able to compete. However, after the injection by a local doctor, she had no feeling in her arm, and was therefore unable to hold the shot. She went through the call room and to the event site, but withdrew and left the field. She was devastated not to be able to compete.
Two distance runners provide the highlights for the day. Nick Willis (NZL), competing in his second event of the meet, placed fourth in the 3000m in 7:55.50. Willis, who was the seventh fastest in the world this year finished behind distance great Bernard Lagat (USA). He had placed sixth on Saturday in the 1500m.
Willis has compiling his finest ever season. He has set national records in the 1500m and 3000m and also personal bests in the mile and 5000m.
“It has been a lot of fun. Especially after London there was disappointments (where he placed nineth after winning silver at the 2008 Olympics). I was 29 and I wondered did I want to do this anymore. I have a young son I want to provide for him and suddenly it has given me a new lease of life and there is no looking back now and enjoying every day. “
In 2006 at the World Cup, Eloise Wellings placed fourth in the 3000m in a very fast 8:41, capping off her best ever season. The time remains her best by six seconds. Eight years on, Wellings, 31, has done it again with another great run, placing an outstanding fourth last evening in the Continental Cup 5000m race.
“I was thinking about all the people who have made sacrifices for me to be here,” she said. “I’m going to get emotional here. The people who are looking after my little girl at home, and my husband Johnny and coach Nick. I just wanted to run a strong race and be brave. I don’t have a kick like the other girls. I thought if I could take the sting out of their legs I might do okay. I’m happy with fourth. It was painfully slow. It is nearly more difficult to run that pace. I was running quicker in the warmup.”
Wellings actually led the race at the 2000m mark reached in 6:53 that is about 17:10 pace.
“I was just trying to think positive. I was waiting ..waiting..for someone to make a move. I didn’t want to wait until one km to go. I think I did the right thing. The Africans got impatient and moved away for a while and about mid-way it started to break up.
At the bell Wellings was in a group of three in places second to fourth. I said to myself this is now the lead group.”
Wellings was just beaten on the line by her good friend and super veteran, Jo Pavey (GBR), who turns 41 next week.
Wellings time was 16:00.14.
“I made my first national team when I was 15 and I’m 31 now, so I’ve had 16 years. Jo Pavey is 41 next week, so if I can channel her I’ve got another 10 years remaining.”
Also on the track, Jeff Riseley followed on from his tremendous Commonwealth games campaign, by placing fifth in the 800m in 1:46.20, taking the scalp of US champion Duane Solomon.
“I sort of expected it to be more tactical, but we passed the bell in 51 seconds and actually I felt really good with 200m to go,” recalled Riseley.
“I was on the inside and couldn’t get out. It was hard to get in a good position, same as Rieti, I wasn’t mentally quite there.”
Many Oceania athletes have been competing non-stop since January.
“It has been hard for us Aussies this season, but this was a real good opportunity to run against the best. I’m looking forward to going home and starting again.”
“I said before I would be happy with at worst fifth or best case third,” said discus thrower Benn Harradine.
“I haven’t been in great shape towards the end of the season and had lots of family things going on.”
Harradine did place fifth, but there was just one metre separating second to fifth places, with Harradine nailing 61.97m.
“It is a good concept, four quick throws,” said Harradine who tried a few next things in training this last year.
“I’ve learnt a few things this year. I’ve risked a few things in training, but I can’t do that in the next two years needing more stable performances leading into Rio.”
It was not quite what I hoped for at the start of the day but to go 78m with a bit of pain I’m not too unhappy,” said javelin thrower Joshua Robinson who placed sixth with his third round throw of 78.58m.
“I wanted to be pressing a bit harder, but the body is what it is. I was warming up along the way, but by the end my knee had given out. Four days after I return I go in for surgery so looking forward to getting back to full health and pressuring these guys.”
Robinson first represented Australia at the world youth and next month turns 30, but is retirement on the cards?
“I will be trying to get to the 85m mark. The body has been holding up well.”
“I’m pretty tired, I won’t lie,” said Selma Kajan after finishing eighth in the 1500m in 4:19.61. “It was really tough. It wasn’t a super quick pace so I didn’t feel comfortable in the early stages. It is just the end of season and I didn’t have that spark to change pace which really hindered me tonight. Competing in the 1500m is a bit of unknown territory for me, so it was an experience and that was easily the best field I’ve ever competed against in my life.”
Kajan, the team reserve, was offered a place in the 1500m, a less familiar distance for her. The specialist 800m runner, has compiled an impressive list of performances this season where she has smashed her 800m personal best on four occasions, and also run 1000m and 1500m lifetime bests.
“Definitely I’ve come a long way and are really happy with the season, but of course you want to finish on a high with a pb. But you can’t be too greedy. It just gives you more motivation to work towards next season.”
Australia fielded a 4 x 400m relay in the women’s event placing fourth in 3:36.89. The team was kicked off by recently crowned Olympic youth champion, Jessica Thornton who ran a competitive leg.
“The atmosphere was not as big as I have experienced before, but running for Asia-Pacific for the first time was something special,” she said.
“I got a good start, and I was going well, but at 200m they passed me and I thought ‘here they go’, but I ran on well over the last 200m.”
She passed to individual 400m runner and Commonwealth Games semi-finalist, Anneliese Rubie.
“It felt better than yesterday, but it is difficult to judge when u are running by yourself,” said Rubie.
Another backing up from day one was 400m hurdler Lauren Wells.
“It is hard to know and gauge yourself when you are out there by yourself. I finished off strongly, but it was difficult to know off a couple of weeks training.”
The team was anchored by Commonwealth Games representative, Lyndsey Pekin.
“Not too bad. I was in nowhere man’s land for the entire race and I’m in a phase of training I don’t know my current pace. I don’t think it was particularly fast I just wanted to hold my form.”
At just 20 years of age, 2014 has been an enormous year for Adelaide’s Margaret Gayen.
“I went to World Relays, then Commonwealth Games and now Continental Cup which was not expected and not on the radar in January,” said the capable sprinter, hurdler and specialist long jumper, who leapt a prodigious 6.62m in January while still a teenager.
In Marrakesh, she managed 5.92m in round three.
“It was pretty poor jumping on my part,” said Gayen. “I had a break after Glasgow and I didn’t know about Continental Cup. I received the call and had to decide to get back into training. It was an uneven and limited prep.”
Also returning to competition after Glasgow was pole vaulter Joel Pocklington.
“It was tough. I was over 5.20m on the last vault which was great. It was difficult at the end as I started rather low and did 10 jumps in total.”
Throws and jumps allow just four attempts at the Continental Cup and can present different challenges for athletes.
“You have two warmup throws and then four in the comp, so you treat them like a six round competition,” said hammer thrower Natalie Debeljuh who threw 53.73m for eighth place.
”It was not what I wanted to do. I had quite a long time off due to an injury and I only had the first session back on the Saturday before I flew out.”
Although they spoke different languages, Debeljuh built up a bond with her Chinese teammate Zheng Wang, one of the best throwers in the world.
“I actually made her some origami as she doesn’t speak a lot of English and she was really happy to receive them.”
A late minute replacement in the women’s 3000m steeplechase was Victorian Stella Radford, who very capability ran in the pack for the first five laps.
“They went out so slow, it was weird. It was like walking pace, but then they pickup the pace,” recalled Radford who ran 11:07.02 for eighth.
David Tarbotton for Oceania Athletics