Sport

Josh Clarke books Olympic 100m spot with sizzling run at Canberra

Sydney's Joshua Clarke credited the move to reverse the direction of the 100-metre event as a major factor behind achieving his Olympic dream at the ACT Championships on Saturday.

The 20-year-old will be the first Australian male sprinter to compete at an Olympic Games in 12 years after using a 0.8 tailwind to post a personal best 10.15 seconds in his easy win, just inside the Olympic cut-off of 10.16 seconds.

Joshua Clarke (centre) speeds into the Olympic team with a 10.15-second effort at the AIS.
Joshua Clarke (centre) speeds into the Olympic team with a 10.15-second effort at the AIS. Photo: Graham Tidy

Keen to take advantage of a forecast tailwind, Athletics ACT successfully campaigned to have the race moved from the front to the back straight.

Australia has failed to field a runner in the blue riband event since Josh Ross in 2004, and Clarke said his achievement was still sinking in.

"It'll probably take a few days, to be honest," he said. "It [changing race direction] was integral in what happened and I'm really grateful for the people who made it happen.

"A few locals like [Canberrra coach] Matt Beckenham saw the [weather] forecast and lobbied to change it, and got some people from Athletics North Queensland to help with cameras.

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"The clock was on the front straight. After the race I started to walk back and there was a few people at the computers cheering, so I knew I might have done it."

Canberra's Australian record holder Melissa Breen posted 11.38 seconds to win the women's 100 metres final, 0.06 seconds outside the Olympic qualifying time.

She will get another chance to book her ticket to Rio at the Canberra Track Classic in a fortnight.

Victorian long jumper Brooke Stratton joined Clarke in achieving an Olympic spot by jumping a personal best 6.79m.

Meanwhile, an intensive three-month training camp in the US has national 200m champion Ella Nelson supremely confident of securing an Olympic qualifying time on Sunday.

The 21-year-old will take the first steps towards this year's Olympic Games at the AIS Athletics Track.

Nelson is coming off a sensational year in 2015 where she upstaged golden girl Sally Pearson at the Sydney Track Classic, collected her second national title in the 200m and also debuted at the world championships.

But rather than rest on her laurels, Nelson and her boyfriend, fellow sprinter Jake Hammond, spent the off-season chasing a competitive edge at the renowned ALTIS elite training centre in Phoenix.

The state of the art facility has worked wonders for Australian long jumpers Fabrice Lapierre - last year's world championship silver medallist - and 2012 Olympic silver medallist Mitchell Watt.

Nelson needs to stop the clock inside the "A" qualifying time of 23.20 seconds and win the national title to secure automatic selection for the Olympics.

She set her personal best of 23.04 seconds at last year's nationals at Brisbane.

"I'm feeling really good at the moment and if all goes to plan, hopefully I do run the 'A' time," Nelson said. "I spent three months [in the US] training with some of the world's best coaches and learning from them.

"My coach and I have been able to adapt certain things that we've learnt there really easily and we're both feeling really confident about this year. They're such a great calibre of athlete over there and everyone is treated equally, which is awesome."

Nelson will be the favourite on a quick Canberra track, but won't have things her own way against Ashleigh Whittaker and national 100m record holder Melissa Breen.

But one rival who won't be taking to the start line is Pearson, who was beaten by Nelson last year.

"It was pretty exciting to run past someone of that calibre, it was pretty crazy," Nelson said. "I remember thinking to myself with 30m to go, 'is this happening?'

"It kinds of put you in a place where you're not too scared to race the big names."

Meanwhile, there were no surprises in Friday night's 400m hurdles final, with national champion Lauren Wells cruising to victory in 56.79 seconds.