Broole stratton is the first Australian woman to make an Olympic long jump final in 12 years after advancing from the qualifying round at the Rio Games.
And sprinter Ella Nelson has announced herself on the world stage, just missing the women’s 200 metres final by 0.01 of a second.
Stratton produced a leap of 6.56m with her third and final attempt to secure one of the non-automatic qualifying spots for Thursday morning’s (AEST) final.
The 23-year-old Victorian is the first Australian to make the Olympic final since the 2004 Athens Games, when Bronwyn Thompson finished fourth.
It was Thompson’s 14-year-old national record of 7.00m that Stratton broke last March with an effort of 7.05m to become an early leader on the world rankings.
She shifted down to the number-three ranking heading into Rio and admitted the pressure had added to the nerves of making her Olympic debut.
“I’ve definitely felt the pressure knowing that everyone expects a lot of me at a championships like this,” said Stratton, who was ninth on the combined qualification standings in Rio.
“I knew I just had to go out there and do what I’ve basically done every other competition during the season and that’s what I did tonight.”
Stratton was feeling the tension ahead of her final jump, knowing she had to lift to make the final after her 6.46m was the best she could register from her two earlier attempts.
“I did it the hard way, that’s for sure, and left it up to my last jump,” she said.
“That was the aim for tonight, just to make the final, and tomorrow is a new day. I’ll be going out there and giving it everything.”
Among the driving forces behind Stratton is the disappointment of missing the final of the Beijing world championships last year by just four centimetres.
It served as motivation during the off-season and she and father Russell, her doubles as her coach, raised their efforts in training ahead of the Olympic season.
“Having that in the back of my mind made me realise I needed to jump bigger and that’s what I did,” she said.
Compatriot Chelsea Jaensch, who was also making her Olympic debut, did not advance to final after recording 6.41m in qualifying.
Serbia’s Ivana Spanovic led the field into the final with an automatic qualifier of 6.87m.
Nelson just falls short of Olympic 200m final
Nelson, another Olympic debutant, was agonisingly close to becoming the first Australian since Melinda Gainsford-Taylor and Cathy Freeman to make the women’s 200m final.
She was third in her semi-final via a personal best of 22.50, with Great Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith nabbing the last non-automatic qualifying berth with a time of 22.49 in an earlier preliminary.
A six-year-old Nelson was in the crowd at Sydney’s Olympic stadium when Gainsford-Taylor and Freeman finished fifth and sixth respectively in the 200m final at the 2000 Games.
She felt if she had enjoyed an injury-free run in the build-up to Rio, rather than be troubled by hamstring complaints, she could have matched what Gainsford-Taylor and Freeman achieved 16 year ago.
“I think if I had had a complete year this year I would have done it,” the 22-year-old Nelson said.
Nelson had mixed emotions about missing out on the final by such a small margin, but took positives from the experience of her first Olympics.
“It honestly feels like you’re a gladiator going out to war,” she said.
“You’re not entirely sure if you are going to leave the track dead or alive, that’s how I felt out there.
“It is really intimidating but an amazing, awesome feeling at the same time.”
World champion Dafne Schippers of The Netherlands topped qualifying for the 200m final in a classy 21.96.