Matt Denny and Jessica Hull break records at Australian Athletics Championships to further Paris Olympics medal hopes

Matt Denny and Jessica Hull break records at Australian Athletics Championships to further Paris Olympics medal hopes
  • PublishedApril 14, 2024

Records fell and new stars emerged on the third day of competition at the Australian Athletics Championships, all with the bright lights of Paris looming on the horizon.

Stacked fields in key middle distance and sprint events competed for medals in Adelaide on Saturday afternoon, but not before Matt Denny set a new national discus record with a throw that confirmed his status as a genuine Olympic medal chance.

Denny produced a personal-best throw of 69.35 metres to claim another national title, smashing his own Australian record in the process.

He overcame a recent bout of COVID-19 to light up the national championships with a performance he said backed up his lofty Olympic dreams.

“I’ve made claims that my focus is to win at the Olympics and I think a lot of people haven’t really taken that too seriously,” Denny said.

“Which is fair enough considering I’m fourth in the order right now, fourth on rankings and haven’t broken the 70-metre mark.

“But today we didn’t have huge winds or anything. I think that [throw] changes my argument on being competitive and looking for the win in Paris.

“Seventy was on the mind today. Obviously I was just off that but to get a PB and national record … You look at past years — most of my best nationals have been 65 at the max, last year was 63. So I think it’s only up from here working towards Olympics.”

A small selection of athletes will be named on Sunday as the first members of Australia’s Olympic track and field team for Paris, and Denny is a strong chance to be among them.

Jessica Hull smiles as she wins a race by a long way
Jessica Hull streamed away from the pack to win the women’s 1,500m final.(Getty Images: Sarah Reed)

Also in with a chance of an early selection is 1,500m star Jessica Hull, who stormed clear of a strong field to take the national championship in impressive fashion.

Hull competed in the 1,500m final in Tokyo. However, she is a stronger prospect heading toward Paris, as her championship record time of 4:01.39 proved.

She is now allowing herself to dream of a second Olympics, and hopes selection will come as soon as this weekend.

“It’s so special,” she said.

“Part of me doesn’t think about that because I had to get my job done today, but a second Olympics, I could never have believed it. I’m so proud.

“I tick all the boxes [for first-wave selection]. You never know, but I’ve got my fingers crossed and we’ll see.

“I’ve got Mum and Dad and [my husband] Daniel here this weekend, so hopefully we can celebrate some good news tomorrow afternoon.”

Adam Spencer stretches ahead of a pack of runners to win
Adam Spencer upset a strong field to win the men’s 1,500m final.(Getty Images: Sarah Reed)

Australia’s middle-distance depth was further highlighted on Saturday afternoon in the men’s 1,500m, won in an upset by 22-year-old Adam Spencer.

In a highly competitive final that also included Olympians Stewart McSweyn and Olli Hoare and rising star Cam Myers, Spencer held his own with the leading pack before making a late charge to pinch victory.

“It was a stacked field,” Spencer said.

“Usually there are one to three guys who are really good but today we had about 10 guys who are on a different level at the moment. It means even more when you win races against really good guys.”

Selection in the men’s 1,500m is going to be hotly contested, and although he could hardly have done more to impress in Adelaide, Spencer concedes there is much to play out between now and the Olympics in July. 

“[Olympic selection] would be a dream come true. Twelve months ago it wasn’t really something I was thinking about but now it’s becoming a reality.

“The selfish part of me would love to be picked but I don’t think it’s in Athletics Australia’s best interests to pick the team in April when the Olympics is in July.

“It’s such a long way out [and] so much can happen between now and then.

“All the other countries pick their team a couple of weeks before. The guys that are running well then are the ones you should really pick.”

Sebastian Sultana smiles after a race
Eighteen-year-old Sebastian Sultana is a national 100m champion and star of the future.(Getty Images: Sarah Reed)

Naa Anang claimed her second 100m national title and first since 2019, clocking 11.34 to pip fellow Queenslander Ella Connolly.

And 18-year-old Sebastian Sultana confirmed his status as a genuine star of the future with a dazzling win in the men’s 100m, recording a time of 10.27 and storming to victory.

Rohan Browning, who continues to recover from a knee issue that has plagued him at this event, finished fourth.


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