Above: Brad Mathas in his 800m heat on the way to qualifying for the final with a personal best. Photo by Alisha Lovrich / Temposhot.
Brad Mathas was over the moon, recording a personal best and making the final of the 800m at his first Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast on Tuesday.
The seven times New Zealand champion drew the first of three heats where the first two and the two next fastest advanced to the final. Without semi-finals the passage into the final was much tougher.
Mathas started strongly and settled into a good position going through the first 400m in sixth place in 52.8 seconds.
“It felt pretty cruisy and I just wanted to stay in contact with that top four and I knew in that last 150 I was going to come home strong so it was just a matter of staying in contact. In hindsight I maybe should have been a little bit closer and that comes from experience from racing, just got to keep ticking the boxes,” said Mathas.
The 24 year old, based in Melbourne, finished fourth in 1:46.32, clipping 0.12 off his best set in a last minute bid to make the Games team in Canberra in January.
“I can’t complain. Obviously I did my best to get a PB, it’s bloody hot out there (31 degrees), tough running like this at this hour of the morning, but no excuses obviously.”
Mathas then had to sit through the next two heats to see if he was one of the next two fastest and he was rewarded with the third runners in both races recording a slower time.
An elated Mathas hugged training partner Joseph Deng of Australia on realising he was in the final. Deng a 19 year old had finished third in Mathas’ heat in 1:45.72 and was the other fastest qualifier.
“I’m absolutely over the moon and I cannot wait (for the final) it’s amazing, I’m speechless. I can’t believe it I’m so happy. Just so many years of hard grind and to make the final obviously was what my goal was and now anything can happen,” said Mathas.
Joseph Millar excelled in the heats of the 200m, requiring to finish in the first two to qualify for the semi-final, the 25 year old powered through to second in 21.10.
Millar drew lane five, hit the bend hard and chased the winner Anaso Jobodwana of South Africa down the straight, Jobodwana winning in 20.89.
“I knew from my first step that I moving out of the blocks and just knew that my bend is quite a strong part of my race and knowing there would probably be a head wind on the straight I put a bit more effort into that and chilled out as much as I could and came down the home straight and really happy with the way I ran first up and it’s a good warm up for the semi-final,” said Millar who holds the New Zealand record of 20.37.
Training went well for the 25 year old five times New Zealand sprint champion leading up to the race.
“I had a really good session at the training camp in Hastings and then one or two sessions back in Auckland. I was feeling good and fast and ready for the heats,” he added.
Millar said that all the hours of training is worthwhile when he gets a result like this.
“All those hours for 20 seconds worth of running, it’s good.”
Cameron French faced the same scenario as Mathas in the heats of the 400m hurdles.
But unfortunately it wasn’t to be, the three times New Zealand champion finished sixth in 50.60, outside his personal best of 49.33.
The 25 year old from Hamilton said the spark was missing.
“I warmed up pretty good, I thought I felt alright, I didn’t have enough spark today, I worked as hard as I could,” said French.
Drawing lane one was nether an advantage or disadvantage for French.
“It’s nice that you can see people but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a major difficulty, you’ve still got 400m, still got 10 hurdles, but it just didn’t click today which is a shame.
“I’ve been training really well up till last week, and I felt like I’ve done some good work but I didn’t quite put it together today,” he added.
He said it was back to a build-up and possibly some further racing in Europe.
“I would have liked to have broken 50 at least, give it a good swing but it’s all learning every run has a learning curve and I’ll take what I can out of this and hopefully get back down under 49.5 again soon.”
Athletics New Zealand Correspondent