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Bring it on: Mel has no London fears

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Chris Dutton, Kyle Mackey-Laws

It will be the most watched women's event in London. But Melissa Breen is ready, as CHRIS DUTTON and KYLE MACKEY-LAWS write

Canberra sprinter Melissa Breen.

Canberra sprinter Melissa Breen. Photo: Melissa Adams

Millions watching at home, 90,000 in the stands, the fastest women in the world, 50 steps and just 11 seconds to finish 100 metres in one of the most watched events at the Olympic Games - don't bother telling Melissa Breen about pressure.

The Canberra sprinter already knows about the fear, expectation and the enormity of her task in London.

But if you think the blue-ribbon event and all the hype scares the 21-year-old, you're wrong.

Instead of being horrified at stepping on to the world's biggest stage, Breen has a determined attitude: ''Bring it on.''

For the past 12 years Australia has been absent in the women's 100m.

But Breen will take the first step to forging her Olympic path when she walks onto the track and explodes out of the starting blocks in London in August.

Despite falling agonisingly short of an A-qualifying time, Athletics Australia selectors saw the potential for Breen's future. Now she's determined to repay the faith.

''I don't think it's pressure. It's prestige,'' Breen said. ''When that whistle goes for us to get on the blocks, it's go-time.

''It doesn't scare me at all, not after what I've been through [this year]. I've raced 27 times this year, I know it's the Olympics but I've done it 27 times already and it shouldn't be overwhelming.

''It's still 100m. There will be 90,000 people in the stands and millions at home, but when that gun goes off, nothing changes.''

Breen has spent the past six months chasing the A-qualifying time of 11.29s to guarantee herself an Olympic berth.

In Japan she ran a blistering race in April, but her adjusted time was 11.292s - an agonising two one-thousandths outside the elusive mark.

It left her inconsolable.

The tears flowed every day. Her heart was broken.

But her life changed on Tuesday when she got the call to tell her to pack her backs for London.

The key to success is simple - belief.

''It's about not being afraid or in awe of those women,'' Breen said. ''They may be 10 years older than me, but I belong there. I've proven that and now it's about believing it.

''Rather than thinking they should beat me, it's about taking them on. Bring it on. That's what I can't wait for.''

Far from satisfied with her Olympic call-up, Breen not only wants to line up next to the fastest females in the world. She wants to beat them.

The 100m sprint is one of the most popular events on the program. But for the athletes it can be cruel. In less than 12 seconds their years of hard work can evaporate. Breen experienced that in 2010 when the pressure got to her in the Commonwealth Games semi-final and she crumbled.

''But I'm mentally stronger now,'' Breen said. ''I see a sports psychiatrist at the ACT Academy of Sport, I've learnt different ways to deal with certain things.

''In Japan I was in all sorts of trouble, I wanted the race to be done … everything pointed to me running bad, but I didn't.

''That showed me when the whistle blows and they say 'on your marks', I can focus no matter what is going on in my head. Come the Olympics it's not about an A-qualifier time, it's about beating as many people as you can, making the semis and getting a crack for the final.''

Breen's form has been outstanding this year. She won the Stawell Gift and the 100m and 200m national titles, but the success was ''forgotten in a haze of emotion'' while chasing an Olympic spot.

To help her through she's had regular visits to her sport psychiatrist. Coach Matt Beckenham has been an inspiration. And conversations with Australia's retired Queen of the track - Melinda Gainsford-Taylor - have been crucial.

Breen's goal is the Olympic semi-finals in what Gainsford-Taylor describes as an ''extraordinary'' spectacle.

''Of course there is a whole sense of 'wow, I've made the Olympics' but that's not where it stops. It's about getting to the Olympics and also performing,'' Gainsford-Taylor said.

''I think the ultimate for any athlete is to come out and run faster than you've ever run before, that's always the goal.

''Not that everyone achieves it. I never ran a PB at the Olympics, anyway. There's no room for mistakes. Your first Olympic Games, there's nothing like it.''

Breen. could have chased the A-qualifier but decided not to risk burning out. Now Beckenham believes she is equipped to handle anything thrown at her.

''[The pressure] is basically what we've spent the last two years preparing for,'' Beckenham said.

''She's been getting more and more experience, it's all been a process of learning for her to develop as an athlete so rather than being nervous, she's excited.

''Now she's in a position to execute what we've been doing at training and she can take on that challenge again.''

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