Melissa Breen sets Australian sprint record

Melissa Breen sets Australian sprint record

She was written off as a worthwhile investment by her own sporting body, but Melissa Breen's stocks are rising as the fastest woman in Australian history.

The Canberra sprinter rewrote the record books with an incredible run of 11.11 seconds in the heats of the women's 100 metres at the ACT championships on Sunday.

It was the fastest time by an Australian woman in 20 years, beating the mark of Melinda Gainsford-Taylor of 11.12 seconds, set in 1994.


Barely two hours later, Breen backed up her performance with an equally impressive showing in the final, stopping the clock in 11.15 seconds to beat London Olympic Games gold medallist Sally Pearson (11.27 seconds) for the first time in 30 meetings between them.

The 23-year-old achieved her success despite losing her funding from Athletics Australia late last year as part of a new funding arrangement.

Athletics Australia deemed it was not realistic that Breen could make a final of an Olympic Games or a world championship in the next four years.

''When that decision came to fruition, I didn't train for a week,'' Breen said. ''It messed with me massively. For your own federation to give you little faith, it made me question everything. It did harden me up and sometimes it's fun to prove people wrong.''

Athletics Australia will review its contracting system after the national championships in April.

Breen is hopeful of being added to the list, but knows she will have to continue to keep exceeding expectations to make that happen.

She now has two A-qualifiers for this year's Commonwealth Games and will be aiming for the national titles in April.

Getting under the elusive 11-second barrier is the next milestone on her radar.

Breen made the most of the newly-installed AIS Athletics Track surface and perfect sprinting conditions to wipe 14-hundredths of a second from her personal best time, set in March last year.

With an ideal +1.9 metre/second tailwind at her back and temperatures in the low 30s, Breen relied on the crowd to let her know of her massive achievement.

''I didn't see the time because I ran straight through but I could hear the crowd going crazy,'' Breen said.

''It was very emotional and the tears show how much sacrifice and dedication it took to get that.

''I'm the fastest Australian ever. That's just insane.''

Poor performances in major competitions played a part in Breen being overlooked.

She overhauled her technique with coach Matt Beckenham after bowing out in the heats of the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Breen also struggled at the London Olympics in 2012 and competed at last year's world championships despite having a liver and kidney infection.

''I buckled under the pressure and didn't perform very well there [at the Commonwealth Games],'' Breen said.

''After 2010 Matt broke me down, and looking at the footage back then I can't believe he didn't walk away. I was awful technically - I don't know how he kept the faith.

''To give him the Australian record is just amazing.''

A phone call to former Australian sprinter Matt Shirvington calmed her nerves before she faced Pearson in the final.

''It was playing on my mind all week, competing against Sally,'' Breen said.

''Matt just told me to nail my start and don't panic if Sal gets away because she's an amazing starter.

''She's an amazing athlete. I'm absolutely pumped.''


Breen will travel to Perth on Wednesday in preparation for a meeting in Western Australia starting on Friday.

It was Pearson's first competition this season as she starts her build up to defending her 60 metres hurdles title at the world indoor championships in Poland next month.

Lee Gaskin is a sports reporter at The Canberra Times.

Most Viewed in National