Browning’s Olympic adventure ends but Bol surges into 800m final

Browning’s Olympic adventure ends but Bol surges into 800m final

It was a night of mixed fortunes for Australia’s athletes at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday, with Peter Bol qualifying for the 800m final but disappointment for 100m sprinter Rohan Browning, high jumper Brandon Starc and hurdler Liz Clay.

Bol won his semi-final in 1min 44.11sec, a new national record, to become the first Australian since 1968 to race for an 800m medal. “How good is that?” he exclaimed afterwards. “I’m just so happy right now.”

The 27-year-old, who was born in Sudan and moved to Australia as a child, said he was aiming for a medal in the final on Wednesday. “When I went to Gateshead [a recent Diamond League event] and came third, I was like … [manager] James Templeton, [coach] Justin Rinaldi, I think we can win a medal,” he explained. “They’re like: ‘Let’s not get too excited of course – got to get to the final first.’ So now we’re here.”

Bol’s compatriots Jeffrey Riseley and Charlie Hunter were unfortunate not to qualify for the final after strong efforts in their semi-finals.

Earlier in the night Australia’s great sprint hope Rohan Browning failed to make the 100m final after finishing fifth in his semi-final. Browning’s time of 10.09sec was eight one-hundredths slower than the effort that saw the 23-year-old qualify fastest from his heat on Saturday, becoming just the first Australian man in almost 70 years to win an Olympic 100m heat.

“I’m a bit disappointed,” he said afterwards. “I definitely had a better run in me than that 10.09, but I gave the field too much ground early on and you can’t do that in the semi-finals of the Olympic Games.”

Browning had a slow start out of the blocks and struggled to make up the ground, despite a late surge. “That’s just championship racing – sometimes you nail it, sometimes you don’t,” he added. “It’s a sport where the smallest of margins really matter. I couldn’t point to any one thing, you just have to be better on the day.”

Browning became an overnight hero in Australia following his 100m heat win and entertaining post-race interview. “It’s been really nice to get all the words of support,” he said. “It’s been very genuine. I’m sorry I couldn’t get it done today. I just want to thank everyone for their support.”

The Sydney law student said he hoped more racing in the year ahead would give him an opportunity to break the 10-second barrier. “Ultimately I’ve learnt a lot from this and that’s the main thing,” he said.

In the high jump final, Starc fell agonisingly short of a medal, recording a season-best jump of 2.35m to finish fifth. Starc attempted one jump at 2.37m and another two at 2.39m, but failed to clear the bar.