Thomas hoping to beat injury hurdles

Tristan Thomas

Tristan Thomas

 IN 2006, Tristan Thomas was a fresh-faced, wide-eyed 20-year-old Tasmanian getting his first taste of senior international competition at a Commonwealth Games on home soil.

emEight years later, he is set to return to the same stage as a multiple national champion, Olympic semi-finalist and world championship medallist.

However, those experiences have not distilled his memory of walking out onto the MCG in front of a huge patriotic crowd.

``I just remember when we first came out of the tunnel this explosion of the senses,'' Thomas recalled.

``To go from these dark tunnels into this bright scene and then seeing people all around the stadium stand up and cheer for me just because I was Australian.

``I remember thinking `you have no idea I'm about to get walloped here' but because of the Australian spirit they were supporting me. 

``It was my first national team and that had always been my goal growing up, to wear the green and gold.

``Having an Australian games, the experience was incredible. I was very lucky to go through that.''

Fittingly given his pet discipline, Thomas's career has not been without hurdles.

The highs have included a 2009 world championship relay bronze medal in Berlin, a sensational anchor leg to set up another relay final in Moscow last year and a season's best time in the biggest race of his life, treating a sold-out 80,000 crowd to a performance which would have won four of the six 400m hurdles heats at the 2012 London Olympics.

But the lows have seen a steady stream of niggling injuries frustrating a career which the 28-year-old firmly believes is yet to reach its peak.

Having missed the entire 2011 season with a serious achilles problem, Thomas again approaches a major meet under an injury cloud and remains unsure whether he will be able to compete in Glasgow's Hampden Park.

Finishing second at this year's national championships after smashing into the fifth hurdle, Thomas qualified for the Commonwealths as the second-ranked athlete with a B-qualifier to his name.

However, problems with his right buttock and left calf have him in a frustrating but familiar headspace.

``I've had a few niggles - nothing dire or long-term but enough to jeopardise my training,'' Thomas said from Canberra.

``At this point I cannot say whether I will be there or not. I'm doing a lot of training in water and on the bike and in many ways I'm still fit. 

``But it's not like a team sport where someone can be 80 per cent and still make a valuable contribution, it's one of those sports where if you are not 100 per cent it will show.

``I'd really like to do well but it's out of my hands. All I can do is recover and prepare as well as I can and hope a few things fall in my favour.

``I just really want to run a time that is considered to be quality on a world scale. Whether that is at a Commonwealth Games, Olympics, world champs or down a local park, that's my aim.

``Unless something goes wrong I will be running at the time of the Commonwealth Games, it's just a question of whether I can get back with enough time to get the required work done to be able to compete.''

A devoted student of his sport with a personal best of 48.6, Thomas has a thorough knowledge of his international rivals, their strengths, weaknesses, PBs and stride patterns.

He progressed from what he dubbed  ``the heat of death'' in London, alongside two-time world championship silver medallist Javier Culson, dual world champ Kerron Clement and Cuban record-holder Omar Cisneros and also came up against defending Olympic champion Angelo Taylor in the following day's semi-final.

He said the quality of a Commonwealth Games field should not be underestimated.

``I look at this as a really good opportunity to be competitive with some of the best out there and it will be a strong event.

``There are three very good Jamaicans, three very good English, three very good South Africans and the reigning world champion (Jehue Gordon from Trinidad and Tobago).

``So it is quite a strong Commonwealth Games. It's a more realistic opportunity to get a medal but I just want to get that time and then see what that then gets me.''

It is a similar story in the 4x400m relay, an event in which Thomas has enjoyed some of his career highlights but was controversially left out of at the Olympics, despite having helped secure Australia's qualification.

``The 4x4 would have to compete against a ridiculously good Bahamas team, a very strong Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, England are always in the top few, South Africa are good and even Nigeria are very strong.''

Eight years since his first taste of the Commonwealth Games, Thomas draws on both the 2010 event in New Delhi, which he missed through injury, and the 2012 Olympics for motivation.

``I got a taste of the Olympics and it was nice,'' said the Sandy Bay Harrier, who was joined by Hobart brothers Hamish and Huw Peacock in the 103-strong Australian track and field team.

``I was one of only a few athletes that produced season bests over there. I ran the fastest I had in four years at the biggest event I've ever been to.

``But despite feeling I took a step in the right direction towards being the athlete I want to be, both my performance in the semi-final and being left out of the relay team have made me motivated to take the next step.

``And I did not get to go to Delhi. I made the team but got injured and not being able to go is a big part of why I am so keen to go to Glasgow on a personal level. 

``I would be excited to have another chance to do something that was taken away from me four years ago, but maybe with a more level head.''

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