Breen chases magic Mito run


ELEVEN years ago this week just five of his fellow countrymen and women witnessed Patrick Johnson become the first Australian to break the magic 10-second barrier for the 100 metres.

His time of 9.93 seconds is still the Australian national record today and given the stocks of our male sprinters at the moment it looks like remaining that way for some time yet.

It was the location at which Johnson chose to make his biggest impression on his sport during a late-starting but nevertheless lengthy career, which meant few other Aussies were able to celebrate it with him.

Mito is a small city by Japanese standards, but possesses one of the more quaintly located athletics stadiums in the world.

Nestling among a swathe of paddy fields, the track can only be accessed via a series of narrow roads built on the surrounding levees.

For athletes and coaches its other big advantage is its propensity to offer very favourable winds for straight events, something which without question assisted Johnson - within the rules - in 2003.

Sadly circumstances have meant that Australian athletes have until now only ventured back to Mito once since Johnson's special feat - a year later when Josh Ross made his international debut on a cold and windy day.

The local council and the meeting organisers decided to re- lay the surface and build a new stand.

Unfortunately it took longer than expected and the meet lost its place on the Japanese international calendar.

But although that remains the case, the Aussies will be back come Tuesday and if all was to go perfectly, a tantalisingly happy coincidence might happen to be the outcome.

For heading the five-strong Australian contingent is current national women's 100 metres record-holder, Melissa Breen - and based on her two runs in Hiroshima last week she is clearly back in the form that delivered the 11.11 second new national mark in February.

She backed that up yesterday in Kakegawa with a Commonwealth Games qualifying performance over 200 metres.

It would be a lay-down misere trivia question if both Australian 100 metres records were to have been set in some remote Japanese location, which as a consequence is mostly only known to athletics fans.

Many would be happy to draw comparisons between Breen and Johnson - both unquestionably talented athletes who have or did not always attract the support or confidence of those in charge.

But Breen is way more relaxed this time around than at any such stage of the season in past years - having already secured selection for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July.

It makes the possibility of another fast run, perhaps even sub 11.11 given helpful conditions, more likely.

Conversely those who will trek with her to the paddy fields track, fellow sprinters Ashleigh Whittaker and Tim Leathart, 400-metre man Dylan Grant and high jumper Brandon Starc are all still chasing Games team berths.

They have until June 1 to further impress team selectors, but at least for this small group the diversion to Mito will have that special added significance. And after Tuesday it may just have that little bit more.

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