Brian Roe | Tasmania goes global

There is every chance that during the next month, five Tasmanians will compete in athletics world championships in London.

LATE BLOOMER: Josh Harris is making his first top level appearance at the age of 27 at the IAAF World Championships in London, specialising in the marathon. Picture: Paul Scambler

LATE BLOOMER: Josh Harris is making his first top level appearance at the age of 27 at the IAAF World Championships in London, specialising in the marathon. Picture: Paul Scambler

Middle-distance star Deon Kenzie and 2012 Paralympic champion, Todd Hodgetts are already in the city regarded as having the most passionate fans of track and field.

The World Para-Athletics Championships are being co-hosted with the able-bodied version for the first time.

The two Tasmanians are among the very best in the world in their disciplines – middle-distance for Kenzie and the shot put for the big man from Launceston.

Their commitment to high performance and their success has for sure played a big role in the growing interest amongst younger Tasmanians with a disability in taking up athletics.

Their presence in every Australian team is almost a given these days, but what is much more of a surprise is the real possibility that three fellow Tasmanians will follow them to London for the IAAF World Championships beginning on August 5.

Hamish Peacock is well-established in the global rankings for the javelin – one of the hottest events in track and field at the moment.

The Hobart engineer does well on the international circuit, regularly featuring in the placings in the prestigious Diamond League meets.

But it’s still tough to meet the qualification requirements in his event for the world championships for which the entry standard is a testing 83.00 metres.

Joining him for sure in this year’s edition will be Launceston schoolteacher Josh Harris.

It’s hard perhaps to describe a 27-year-old making his first appearance at the top level as a journeyman of his craft, but it’s probably true in the case of Harris.

He’s a more-than-competent middle- and long-distance performer from 1500 metres in the stadium, through cross country to his now-pet event on the road – even becoming the national record holder for both the rarely-run 25000-metre and 30000-metre on the track.

Now largely self-coached after the passing two years ago of long-term mentor, Andrew Willis, Harris is specialising in the marathon, the event in which realistically he has his best chance to succeed at world level.

He earned his first national senior team spot with a qualifying performance in Japan earlier this year and now has the chance to mix it with the world’s best in the more unusual format of a championship race – with just a hundred or so runners on the road rather than the thousands that make up the field in mass participation events.

But the possibility that a third Tasmanian and indeed a third athlete from the UTAS Athletic Club, may join them has come from left field – at least in terms of the event in which he may run.

Launceston's Todd Hodgetts is already in London to compete in his pet event, the shot put, in the World Para-Athletics Championships. Picture: Getty Images

Launceston's Todd Hodgetts is already in London to compete in his pet event, the shot put, in the World Para-Athletics Championships. Picture: Getty Images

Stewart McSweyn almost certainly became King Island’s finest sporting export when he ran 13.19.98 for 5000 metres at the time-honoured Morton Games in Dublin, Ireland during the week.

It’s not the most fashionable meet on the European circuit but one steeped in history – created out of a famous race in 1958 when Herb Elliott took four seconds off the then-world record for the mile.

Sometimes a meet with history rather than with hype creates a friendlier environment for an athlete chasing a qualifying time.

McSweyn has been running across Europe throughout the northern summer trying to get the time in the event he was considered most likely to qualify for – the 3000-metre steeplechase. But in a moderate quality field over 5000 metres, he smashed the time. It was a well-judged race, beautifully paced by a couple of local runners before McSweyn’s training partner, Collis Birmingham took over. Birmingham was hoping for the time himself but his courageous front running instead delivered the opportunity to McSweyn which he grasped with confidence. The Tasmanian’s only problem now is that the maximum of three Australians have the time and more may achieve it before the July 23 cut-off.