Nice, France- For 46 years others have tried. For 46 years others have failed. For 46 years no Australian has run faster over 800 metres than Ralph Doubell did to win gold at the Mexico Olympics.
Alex Rowe might be about to change that.
Alex who? Alex Rowe. One of the best young athletes in Australia which because his sport is athletics not football means he still has a lower profile than player 38 on the GWS list. Tonight that could change and the former St Kevins boy might become well known enough to be offered a shoe sponsorship.
Presently he has the fifth fastest time in the world this year including three successive wins on the European tour in recent weeks in times edging achingly close to Doubell’s mark. The bio-medicine student thus stands poised, stands hopeful, that he can break the four decades old record.
Modestly but with refreshingly reasonable perspective Rowe acknowledges that breaking the record would be significant but still not put him in Doubell’s league. Setting a new national record in winning gold in the Olympic final in a then world record equalling time of 1 minutes 44.3 seconds sets Doubell’s performance apart.
With world record holder David Rudisha – the Kenyan who broke the world record without a pacemaker when he won Olympic gold in London – in the field in Monte Carlo Rowe is hopeful the sharp pace will help tow him over the line in a new national mark.
Rudisha has set his pacemaker to put him on track for a time of 1minute 42seconds. A race of that pace would put the Victorian bio-medicine student seriously into the fame of the new national record.
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about the Australian record,” he said. Even to be in the race has provided a pinch yourself moment for Rowe with athletes ensconced at the lavish Fairmont Motel on a spur below the Monte Carlo casino with views over the water.
“I ran 1.44:74 in a race where we had a pacemaker until 500 and then I had to work the last 300 myself, coming here everyone says this is a really fast track and I went out and had a look and it is a pretty good track. That is definitely something I would love to achieve here. If I don’t I have still had a great season so far and I still have the Commonwealth Games to look forward to. It would be great to get that record but if not I am 22 and have another 8 years to get it.
“I feel that if I do break the record, his run is still probably better because he won Olympic gold and he won the race. Let's say I run 1:44.39 and break it by .01, I would have been dragged around ... obviously that was a huge run back then and there is a reason why it has stood for so long.
“Then again you look at a lot of the other national records around and ours is one of the weaker ones so I we need someone to burst through that, hopefully I can be that person to burst through it and run fast I know that for sure there will be a whole bunch of Aussies running 1:45, 1:44 as well.”
A talented schoolboy footballer he turned down an offer to join Oakleigh Chargers when he was a teenager, because athletics had become his passion. Ironically he had initially gone to athletics to help his football only to discover his greater love was running.
Rowe has built to this point rapidly in the last 12 months since he finished 13th at the world championships and only narrowly made the cut for the final. It gave him a sense of belonging in the world company.
“I have had three consecutive wins now and that is great and fantastic and now I am excited to test my ability out against the next echelon of talent that is there.
“I don’t think with David Rudisha in the race that I am going to win the race but I certainly think that if I can finish in the upper half.
“That is something that is beneficial from having that experience last year in Moscow, now I am going into the race not fazed by the big names I am just seeing myself as just another competitor in the race rather than an observer sitting back watching these amazing athletes compete,
“I definitely want to beat some of them, I won’t beat all of them. Probably not.”
But he might beat the clock and set a new national time.