ATHLETICS MELBOURNE TRACK CLASSIC
Versatile middle-distance stars Stewart McSweyn and Jessica Hull have recorded commanding 5000m wins at the Melbourne Track Classic, increasing their options when the pair make their Olympic debuts in Tokyo.
McSweyn overcame some nervous moments before stamping his authority on Thursday night's race, becoming the first man in five years to complete the Australian 5000m/10,000m double.
He broke clear with five laps to go and powered away to win in 13 minutes 38.77 seconds.
McSweyn raced in a black armband in honour of his mentor and world athletics identity Maurie Plant, who died last month.
"I knew it wasn't going to be easy and I had to bring the A-game," said the Tasmanian, who smashed the 10,000m record late last year at the Zatopek meet.
"It was nerve wracking early on because it was so slow and there were a lot of guys there.
"I have shown I can run a fast race at the Zatopek and then a more tactical one tonight.
"At the Olympics, it could go either way, so I have to be ready with both styles of race if I am going to try and do what I want to do and get close to a medal."
McSweyn's training partner Matthew Ramsden was second and Sam McEntee was third.
McSweyn, 24, has bettered the qualifying time in the 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m, but will only be able to contest two events in Tokyo.
Hull has a similar conundrum, as she has qualifying times in the 1500m and 5000m, but the Olympic schedule precludes the possibility of doubling up.
That's a problem for another day for the 23-year-old and her coach Pete Julian.
"It is pretty surreal," said Hull, who graduated last year from the University of Oregon and is now based in Phoenix.
"It's been a long time, it's been a dream and, when you are a kid, you think it is going to happen sooner.
"So in 2016, I was like 'yeah, I'm going to Rio' but obviously I was still young.
"But now in 2020, it is a reality and it is so exciting."
Hull surged to the front with 600 metres to go and motored away from Japan's Hitomi Niiya to claim her first national title in 15:06.12.
Niiya crossed the line second in 15:15.41 and Australian Genevieve Gregson was third in 15:20.60.
The other outstanding performance of the night came from 24-year-old Queenslander Liz Clay, who went to fourth spot on the Australian list with a flying time of 12.94 seconds in the women's 100m hurdles.
Clay is coached by Sally Pearson's former mentor Sharon Hannan.
World championships semi-finalist Bendere Oboya was an impressive winner of the women's 400m in 52.06 ahead of Anneliese Rubie-Renshaw (53.73).
John Gikas (20.91) edged out Rio Olympian Alex Hartmann to win the men's 200m.