First came Rohan Browning. Then came Riley Day. A new generation of world-class Australian sprint stars has announced itself in Tokyo in the space of a day.
A night after 23-year-old Browning raced in the Olympic 100 metres semi-final, 21-year-old Day ran a big personal best in her 200 metres semi final to just miss the final.
Riley Day ran a PB but missed the final in the 200 metres.Credit:Getty
“Holy shit. I’m going to stop at nothing to be the best,” she said in almost disbelief in her own performance.
Day was the 16-year-old girl who was discovered as half a gimmick by the Nitro carnival in Australia when they chose her as the schoolkid with promise who got to race Usain Bolt. That gimmick has turned into a serious result and provided an additional benefit when Day stood on the blocks against multiple Olympic gold medal champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who the night before won silver in the 100 metres.
“I looked next to them and I go ‘oh you’re pretty fast, but I did race Usain Bolt,’” she laughed.
Australian co-captain Steve Solomon just missed the final of the 400 metres, a night after running his first personal best in nine years to make the semi-final.
He said this was the most exciting group of athletes he had seen emerge in Australia in his decade on the team.
“We are having a phenomenal championships as a team, which is tremendously rewarding, it is the right momentum that our team needs.
“It’s brilliant. Rohan’s run was magnificent, I know it just made him hungrier to make the final which I know he is absolutely capable of doing and more. Riley in her first major.
“It’s our largest team at an overseas Olympics, it’s a very young team. And when we set the expectation of performances at personal bests, season’s bests, then we are going to have great results and that is the momentum built in the team at the moment.
“It really is the most exciting group I’ve seen. It’s got a great feel to it. I think what we are now looking for is that medal or those medals to lead us through the way. Seeing is believing, the more times we can see it as a group the more belief we have in ourselves.
“I know that’s where we are, rising the tide of the whole group.
“It’s going to be a very big year, we have got world champs in Oregon and Commonwealth Games, it’s a big 12 months for Australian athletics coming up. And Paris in three years.”
Day faced an agonising 10 minutes after her race just hoping that the next two semi-finals would be slower than hers and she could go through. She was left with mixed feelings, disappointed to miss but happy nonetheless to have announced herself as a world contender.
“It was very bittersweet, a 0.2 PB, which is huge in sprints, which is just unreal. I knew it was going to be a tough ask to get in that final but 12th overall is not too shabby for a first Olympics at 21. Really happy overall but it is a bit of a punch in the guts,” she said.
She ran 22.56 seconds and missed third place by 0.006 of a second, running against one of the greatest runners the world has seen, Jamaican Fraser-Pryce.
“It’s a massive confidence-booster knowing I can be up there and know I can be competitive with some of the best girls in the world … and know that I can be competitive. It’s really promising for the future and makes me want to work hard for next year.
“I am so incredibly happy with the work I have done with my coach and strength coach. They made me work my arse off, I hated them at the time, but it has paid off. This is what I wanted to run here.
“I just qualified for world champs and Commonwealth Games next year with that so that makes my life a lot easier … really looking forward to the future.”
Solomon has been wracked by injury for years and said it was the best he had felt since the London Olympics.
“I am quite happy. I wanted to make the final, I believed that I could. I got the semi to do it, I executed well, needed to run harder into the top curve,” he said.
Nina Kennedy’s competition in the pole vault was interrupted at length by a heavy tropical downpour.
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