Athletics in Australia

Sport overview
country = Australia
sport = Athletics (track and field)

imagesize = 260px
caption =
union = Athletics Australia
registered = 14,493 (total athletes)
first = 1810, Sydney, New South Wales
session = Session: 112,524, <25 September 2000>2000 Sydney Olympics, Stadium Australia
league =
national1 = Australian Championships
national2 = Athletics Grand Prix Series

Athletics is a popular sport in Australia, with around 34,000 athletes, officials and coaches currently registered with the national association [ - Athletics Australia - Annual Report 2006/07] ] .

Though not as high-profile as sports such as Cricket, Australian Rules Football, Rugby League or Rugby Union in Australia, athletics has produced many world sporting legends, including Edwin Flack, Betty Cuthbert, Herb Elliot, and Cathy Freeman.

Australia has hosted many important athletics competitions, including the 1956 and 2000 Olympic Games, the 1938, 1962, 1982 and 2006 Commonwealth Games, the 1985 World Cup in Athletics, and the 1996 World Junior Championships.

Athletics Australia is the governing body for athletics in Australia.

History of athletics in Australia

Evidence shows Aboriginal Australians participated in a range of athletics events, prior to colonisation of Australia. When British colonists arrived from 1788, they brought with them the concept of athletics competition [ Athletics Australia - History] ] .

The earliest known athletics competition in Australia was in Sydney, in 1810, where Dicky Dowling won a 50 yards sprint, while the first amateur athletics club was formed in Adelaide, South Australia in 1867.

Professional athletics

The Australian gold rush of the late 1800s attracted huge populations to Australia and many (professional) athletics events were conducted at the gold-fields, with the 'gift' of a gold nugget to the winner. This 'pro' tradition continues today, with the Stawell Gift, Australia's premier professional foot-race, a highlight of the sporting calendar [ [ Australia Post Stawell Gift website] ] .

Australasian Union

In 1890, the first Inter-Colonial championships was held in Sydney, featuring teams from the Australasian colonies of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and New Zealand [ [ Athletics Australia - 1890 Inter-Colonial meet] ] .

The Australasian Athletics Union of Australasia was formed in 1897 to govern the sport, with combined Australian and New Zealand teams representing at the 1908 and 1912 Olympic Games.

In 1928, New Zealand withdrew from the Union to form their own national association and the Amateur Athletics Union of Australia became the peak-body for athletics in Australia. The Australasian Championships now became Australian Championships, with official women's events held from 1930.

Early women's athletics

Female participation in women's athletics at the turn of the century was usually restricted to 'picnic' meets where ladies races were conducted, along with egg-and-spoon races and other carnival events [ Athletics Gold - History of Women's Athletics in Australia] ] .

In late 1906, at Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, the first women's 'state championship' was run, with Loyal Forward winning the 50 yards sprint and invitational 100 yards. Though these events were held during a professional meeting, Richard Coombes, President of the men's Amateur Athletics Union, considered the prizes awarded were compliant with amateur rules.

A Sydney Ladies amateur athletics club was formed by Mrs Drennan, herself a sprinter, in 1913, and competitions, held under the auspices of the NSW men's association were conducted over the next five years. Professional races for women were also very popular during this time.

Amateur unions

From 1928, the Amateur Athletics Union of Australia, had responsibility for track and field in Australia, including women's athletics with women's events being held, for the first time, at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. The first joint National Championships were conducted in Melbourne in 1930 [ [ Athletics Australia - 1930 National Championships] ] .

In 1932 an Australian Women's Amateur Athletics Union was formed which administered women's track and field in Australia and held its' own national championships until 1978. An amalgamation of men's and women's bodies occurred in 1978 and, in 1989 this combined association was re-named as Athletics Australia.

Combined annual national championships have been held since 1978 [ [ Athletics Australia - National Championships] ] .

Athletics Australia

Currently, Athletics Australia works with its' affiliated state bodies and the Australian and State Institutes of Sport to assist athletes achieve a high standard of performance [ [ Athletics Australia - Affiliated Bodies] ] .

The organisation has set a goal to finish in the top-ten countries competing in athletics at the 2012 London Olympics, winning five medals and achieving fourteen top-eight placings [ [ Athletics Australia - Achieving High Performance 2005-2009] ] .

International teams

Olympic Games

Australia is one of the few countries who have entered track and field athletes in every Olympic Games. At the first Olympics, in Athens in 1896, Victorian runner, Edwin Flack won both 800 metres and 1500 metres events [ Athletics Australia - Olympic Games medalists] ] .

The first Australian woman to win an Olympic medal was Shirley Strickland, at the 1948 London Games, with a bronze medal in the 100 metres sprint while Australia's first female gold medalist in athletics was Marjorie Jackson who won the 100 metres and 200 metres sprint races in 1952.

The most bemedalled Australian athletes at the Olympic Games have been Stanley Rowley (with three) and Shirley Strickland (with seven).

Commonwealth Games

The Commonwealth Games began as the British Empire Games in 1930 and Australian athletes have competed at every edition since, with female representatives from 1938.

Decima Norman was the star of those 1938 Sydney Games, winning five gold-medals. Since then, many other female athletes have starred at the Games, including Marjorie Jackson-Nelson, Pam Kilborn, Denise Boyd, Debbie Flintoff-King and Jane Flemming. The most successful medalist at the Commonwealth Games has been Raelene Boyle who won nine medals, including seven golds [ Athletics Australia - Commonwealth Games medalists] ] .

Australia's best performed male athletes at the 'Friendly Games' include John Treloar, Herb Elliott, and Gary Honey, with walker Nathan Deakes the most successful, winning four gold and one bronze medal during his career.

World Championships

Australia has again been represented at each edition of the IAAF World Championships, with Robert de Castella winning the first gold medal at the inaugural 1983 World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki, Finland.

Since then, Dmitri Markov, Cathy Freeman and Jana Rawlinson have all become world champions [ [ Athletics Australia - World Athletics Championships gold medal winners] ] .

Other international competitions

Australian athletes have also competed in a range of other international competitions [ Athletics Australia - International Results] ] .

World Indoor Championships

Australia's indoor world champions include: [ Athletics Australia - World Indoor Champions] ]
* Mike Hillardt - 1995 1500 metres
* Kerry Saxby-Junna - 1991 5000 metres walk
* Melinda Gainsford - 2005 200 metres
* Tamsyn Lewis - 2008 800 metres

World Cup

Australia competes in an Oceanian team in the World Cup. Australian champions include [ [ Athletics Australia - World Cup champions] ] :

* Lyn Jacenko - 1977 Long Jump
* Joanna Stone - 1998 Javelin
* Craig Mottram - 2003 and 2006 3000 metres
* Steve Hooker - 2006 Pole Vault

World Cross-country Championships

* Benita Johnson - 2004 World Champion - Long Course (8000m) [ [ Athletics Australia - World Cross-country Champions] ]

World Junior Championships

Sydney hosted the 1996 World Junior Championships, a bi-ennial event in which competitors must be 19 years of age or younger.

Australian Gold medalists at these events include: [ [ Athletics Australia - World Junior Champions] ]
* Miles Murphy - 1986 400 metres
* Rohan Robinson - 1990 400 metres hurdles
* Susan Andrews, Sophie Scamps, Kylie Hanigan, Renee Poetschka - 1990 4 x 400 metres relay
* Jagen Hames - 1994 High Jump
* Paul Byrne - 1994 800 metres
* Scott Thom, Brad Jamieson, Casey Vincent, Daniel McFarlane - 1998 4 x 400 metres relay
* Jana Rawlinson - 2000 400 metres and 400 metres hurdles
* Dani Samuels - 2006 Discus
* Robbie Crowther - 2006 Long Jump

World Youth Championships

The World Youth (Under 18) Championships commenced in 1999 [ [ Athletics Australia - World Youth Championships] ] and Australian winners include:

* George Clarke - 1999 800 metres and 2001 1500 metres
* Shermin Oksuz - 2001 Long Jump
* Kimberley Mickle - 2001 Javelin
* Sally McLellan - 2003 100 metres hurdles
* Dani Samuels - 2003 Discus
* Ronnie Buckley - 2003 Discus
* Chris Noffke - 2005 Long Jump
* Vicky Parnov - 2007 Pole Vault

Pacific Conference Games

The Pacific Conference Games were a quadrennial event conducted between athletes from Australia, Japan, Canada, New Zealand and the United States between 1969 and 1985 [ [ Pacific Conference Games] ] .

The most successful athlete at these Games was Denise Boyd who won six gold medals between 1973 and 1977 [ [ Athletics Australia - Pacific Conference Games gold medal winners] ] .

Athletics events in Australia

Athletics Australia conducts a range of important athletics events and championships each year [ Athletics Australia - Season Guide 2007/08] ] . These include:

National Championships

The national titles have been conducted for over a hundred years, though the event has only been a joint championship since 1978.

The most successful athletes at this event include Warwick Selvey (19 wins) and Gael Martin (20 wins) [ [ Athletics Australia - Gold medalists at the Australian Championships] ] .

Athletics Grand Prix

The IAAF approved meets at Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne comprise the most important athletics meetings held in Australia, with Australian athletes required to compete in order to gain international selection [ [ - Athletics Australia selection criteria] ] .

tate Championships

Each Australian state or territory holds its' own state athletics championships annually [ [ Athletics Australia - Affiliated associations] ] .

Other events

Inter-varsity athletics competitions were conducted in Australia from the late 1800s. Since 1993, the Australian University Games have presented an annual multi-sport event [ [ Australian University Games - About the Games] ] . Athletes studying at tertiary institutions are eligible to compete in the bi-annual World University Games.

World records

The first Australian to set a ratified world record was Triple Jumper Nick Winter at the 1924 Paris Olympics, with the first official female record-holder Decima Norman, who equalled the 100 yards world record in New Zealand, in 1939. [ - Athletics Australia - list of world record holders] ] .

Distance runner Ron Clarke is still the most successful Australian athlete in terms of setting world records, with seventeen official records from Two-Miles to the 'One-Hour run' between 1963 and 1968. Pole Vaulter Emma George is the most successful female Australian record-breaker, setting eleven world records from 1995 to 1999.

Nathan Deakes set the most recent world record in Australia, at Geelong on 2 December, 2006 when he recorded a time of 3-35.47 for the 50 km walk.

Other famous athletics world records set in Australia include:

* Men's Javelin - 85.71m - Egil Danielsen - Melbourne, 1956
* Women's 400 metres - 47.60 - Marita Koch - Canberra, 1985 (current world record)
* Women's 4 x 100 metres relay - 41.37 - GDR - Canberra, 1985 (current world record)

Athletics venues in Australia

Athletics is conducted in most major centres in Australia, with a number of notable tracks:

*Olympic Park Stadium - since 1956 the home of athletics in Victoria and the site of numerous world records
*Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre (formerly QEII Stadium) - hosted the 1982 Commonwealth Games
*Sydney International Athletics Centre - the warm-up track for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and host of the World Junior Championships
*Santos Stadium - since 1998 the main venue for athletics in Adelaide, South Australia

A large number of tracks originally established for athletics have since been converted to use by other sports:

*Sydney Cricket Ground - main venue of the 1938 British Empire Games
*Melbourne Cricket Ground - main venue of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and 2006 Commonwealth Games athletics events.
*Perry Lakes Stadium - main venue of the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Western Australia
*Kensington Oval (formerly Olympic Sports Field) - from 1965 to 1998, the home of South Australian athletics
*Bruce Stadium - host to the 1985 IAAF World Cup in Athletics - where two world records were set that still stand in 2008.
*Stadium Australia - host of the 2000 Sydney Olympics athletics events

Other significant former athletics venues in Australia include:

* Sydney Sports Ground, Sydney Showground (Moore Park)
Moore Park
and Pratten Park in Sydney
* Royal Park and St. Kilda Cricket Ground in Melbourne
* Adelaide Oval, Norwood Oval, and Wayville Showgrounds in Adelaide
* Exhibition Ground, Bowen Park, Brisbane and Lang Park in Brisbane
* Leederville Oval in Perth
* North Hobart Oval in Hobart

A specially constructed Cross country facility was opened at Canberra in November 2007. Named as the 'Stromlo Forest Park Robert de Castella cross-country track' [ [ Stromlo Forest Park - official website] ] , this venue hosted the 2008 Australian Cross-Country trials [ [ The Age - Runners to tackle Australia's Algarve] ] .

ee also

*Athletics Australia
*Australian Championships in Athletics
*List of Australian athletics champions (men)
*List of Australian athletics champions (Women)
*Sport in Australia


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