Men’s Long Distance Preview: Tradition Continues

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This article originally appeared on athletics.org.au – home of Athletics Australia: http://www.athletics.com.au/News/mens-long-distance-preview-tradition-continues

Men 5000m

Following a scintillating trial race, Morgan McDonald (NSW), Stewart McSweyn (TAS) and David McNeill (VIC) enter the 2018 Commonwealth Games with encouraging form over the 12.5 lap race.

Battling oppressive Gold Coast conditions, McDonald (13:19.05) launched a withering kick over the final 200 metres to win the trial and ensure his selection, with all three men breaking 13:20 in the process.

The sixth-fastest Australian ever over 5000m, McDonald has successfully juggled a record-setting collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin with his Australian representative duties.

He first donned the green and gold in 2013 at the World Junior Cross Country Championships in Poland placing 33rd, then the following year placed tenth in the 5000m at the 2014 World Junior Championships. The finance student from Paddington’s senior debut resulted in a seventh-place finish in his 5000m heat at the 2017 World Championships, missing the final by an agonising 0.37 seconds.

King Island native Stewart McSweyn enters the Commonwealth Games following a strong domestic season, setting personal bests in both the 1500m (3:39.13) and 5000m (13:19.96).

Previously having represented Australia at the 2015 World University Games, and finishing 86th as a teammate to McDonald at the 2013 World Junior Cross Country Championships, McSweyn is sure to draw upon these experiences to navigate his way through the 5000m and 10,000m fields on the Gold Coast.

A breakthrough 2017 saw McSweyn gain World Championship selection, placing 14th in his 3000m steeplechase heat at the World Championships.

A veteran of Australian teams, two-time Olympian David McNeill found 5000m form at the precise moment, breaking 13:20 for the first time since 2012 to finish second (13:19.51) at the 2018 Australian Championships. 31-year old McNeill has been selected for both the 5000m and 10,000m on the Gold Coast and will look to improve on his previous Commonwealth Games best, an eighth-place 5000m finish in Delhi.

The Australian contingent is likely to be tested by the traditional distance nations of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, with Canada and Jamaica also entering major championship specialists.

The top-seeded athlete (12:59.83), 21-year old Joshua Cheptegei (Uganda) arrives with experience beyond his years. He is already a silver medallist in the 10,000m at the 2017 World Championships and two top-eight finishes at the 2016 Olympics Games.

Kenya’s medal hopes may rest upon the shoulders of trial-winner Edward Zakayo (13:24.08, 2017), having won a silver medal at the 2017 World Youth Championships.

The 27-year old leads a team including Nicholas Kimeli Kipkorir (13:11.58, 2017) and dark-horse David Kiprotich Bett (13:06.06, 2010), the 2010 World Under 20 Champion, Bett has returned to the track after mixed results on the roads.

A firm medal favourite, Mohammed Ahmed of Canada holds both the 5,000m and 10,000m Canadian national records (13:01.74, 2016 & 27:02.35, 2017 respectively), finishing fourth in the 5000m event at the 2016 Rio Olympics, 6th and 8th in the 5000m and 10,000m events respectively at the 2017 World Championships, and has a knack for performing in major championship finals.

Men 10,000m

A 25-lap journey, the three Australian men selected to take on the Commonwealth were decided on a calm December night in Melbourne, with the Zatopek:10 race doubling as a selection trial.

A tactical affair until the final two kilometres, pre-race favourite Patrick Tiernan (QLD) did his utmost to shake Stewart McSweyn (TAS) over a torrid final mile.

Tiernan could do little to separate himself from the plucky King Islander, as McSweyn tore away in the final 100 metres to take his first national 10,000m title, as David McNeill (VIC) was 9 seconds adrift in third.

With that win, McSweyn was one of the first Australian athletes to confirm his place in the team and enters his first major championship 10,000m race with encouraging momentum.

Whilst McSweyn’s personal best for the distance sits at an unassuming 28:29.65, quicker comparative times over the shorter distances would suggest the Tasmanian has room for substantial improvement.

Watch for the 22-year old to remain with the lead pack in the latter stages of the race, as a home Commonwealth Games with a class international field sets the stage for something special.

The third-fastest Australian over the 10,000m distance, Philadelphia-based Patrick Tiernan suffered an unexpected loss at the December selection trial, followed by a near miss in the 5,000m selection trial.

A frustrating domestic season may set the humble Queenslander up for a triumphant return in his home state, as experiences at the 2017 World Cross Country Championships (13th), and bouncing back from 29th in the 10,000m event to 11th in the 5000m event at London 2017 World Championships indicate the class of the highly touted 23-year old.

Selected for both the 5000m and 10,000m events, a two-time national champion at 10,000m, David McNeill will look to draw upon his 2015 & 2016 10,000m form, both seasons in which McNeill registered sub-28 minute 10,000m times.

With a 16th place in the 10,000m at the 2016 Rio Olympics, McNeill will draw upon substantial major championship experience to navigate a field containing multiple Olympic, Commonwealth and World Championship medallists.

Potential international challengers include sub-27 minute athletes Joshua Cheptegei (Uganda, 26:49.94), Josphat Bett Kipkoech (Kenya, 26:48.99), dual Olympic finalist Mohammed Ahmed(Canada), Glasgow 2014 steeplechase gold medallist Jonathan Ndiku (Kenya), World Under 20 champion Rodgers Kwemoi (Kenya), and New Zealand Jake Robertson who recently broke Rod Dixon‘s 34-year-old national record in the marathon. Twin brother Zane has pulled out of the team with a groin injury.

Men Marathon

The men’s marathon is an event where Australia has found regular success with previous champions including Rob De Castella (1982 & 1986), 2014 and 2018 Chef de Mission Steve Moneghetti (1994) and Michael Shelley (2014) atop a list of multiple medallists over the distance.

At these Games Michael Shelley (QLD) and Liam Adams (VIC) bring significant experience to the race, both proving themselves in World Major Marathons to gain Commonwealth Games selection.

Shelley raced at a consistently high level throughout 2017, finishing tenth in both London and Chicago, recording times of 2:11:38 and 2:12:52 respectively. The 34-year old Queenslander has shown superb form in championship marathon’s, as races without pacemakers or ‘rabbits’ running in front of the main pack tend to rely more on the cunning tactical skills of the athlete.

Shelley put his tactical prowess on display in Delhi at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, braving the heat and humidity for a silver medal. He returned even better in Glasgow 2014 to successfully navigate the cobblestone streets, claiming gold and setting a personal best of 2:11:38 in the process.

With little recent racing, Shelley finished sixth at the Doha Half Marathon in January against a quality field, running 63:20 in difficult conditions. A home Games provides an opportunity for the reigning champion to attempt to secure back to back victories, an Australian feat last managed by Rob De Castella in 1982 and 1986.

Liam Adams has combined the rigours of full-time work as an electrician with world-class performances in his spare time, the 31-year old Essendon resident is well known for clocking in excess of 180 kilometres a week running once a day after work, a tremendous feat in itself.

Adams secured a place on the Games team following a personal best performance in the Berlin Marathon, one of the fastest marathons in the world. Adams patiently worked through rainy conditions to run 2:12:52 and finish ninth amongst a truly world-class field.

Adams will look to improve upon a seventh-place finish at the 2014 Glasgow Games, having prepared for the Gold Coast race with a series of successful road races in Melbourne and Hobart.

An event with immense depth in the Commonwealth, athletes set to challenge Shelley and Adams include 44-year old 2015 Gold Coast Marathon winner Kenneth Mungara, touting a personal best of 2:07:36.

Scotland’s major championship marathon success has stemmed largely from Callum Hawkins, finishing ninth at the 2016 Olympic Games and fourth at the 2017 World Championships in a personal best of 2:10:17.

Be sure to watch for Solomon Mutai of Uganda, a 2:09:59 athlete with three top-eight finishes at the Olympic Games (2016), World Championships (2015), and Commonwealth Games (2014).

New Zealander Zane Robertson’s attempt at an audacious double was curtailed by injury and he won’t take part.

Men 3000m steeplechase

Canberra-based James Nipperess (NSW) will be Australia’s lone representative in the 3000m steeplechase, as he aims to improve upon a ninth-place finish at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

The 27-year old steeplechaser secured his place on the team with a clinical tactical victory at the Commonwealth trials, pulling away from the field over the last 2 laps in hot conditions to secure the national title in the process.

The seven and a half lap race over barriers includes a water jump once per lap, with championship races often relatively fast in nature, Nipperess’ personal best of 8:32.59 could improve if he maintains contact with international competitors.

A historically Kenyan-dominated event, the reigning Olympic champion Conseslus Kiprutocontinues the tradition having won gold (201) and silver (2015 and 2013) at world level.

Kipruto’s 8:00.12 personal best ranks him fastest amongst Kenyan teammates, with 2016 World junior champion Amos Kirui (8:08.37) and Abraham Kibiwott (8:09.25) sure to look for a podium sweep.

Matt Hughes (Canada) was fourth in Glasgow in 2014, performing consistently inside top-8 places at the Olympic and World Championship level, registering performances between his personal best of 8:11.64 to 8:21 since 2013.

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