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GALLERY: From Hunter Classic to Rio

Posted by on 04/12/2018

LONDON Olympics silver medallist Mitchell Watt hopes Saturday night’s Hunter Track Classic can be the springboard that launches his campaign for gold at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Competing for the first time since his heroics last August, the 24-year-old Queenslander won the men’s long jump shoot-out open event with a leap of 7.54 metres, 16 centimetres ahead of Canberra rookie Angus Gould.

It was well short of the 8.16m jump that earned him second place in London, but Watt was easing himself back into action and used a shortened run-up of 10m.

‘‘The plan was for 7.50 and I jumped 7.54 off half my normal run-up,’’ Watt told the Newcastle Herald.

‘‘I wouldn’t normally compete this early, but they were keen to have me down and it was good. I got what I wanted out of the meet.

‘‘Training has been getting a bit monotonous so it was nice to break it up a bit. I ticked all the boxes.’’

AIRBORNE: Mitchell Watt. Picture: Peter Stoop

AIRBORNE: Mitchell Watt. Picture: Peter Stoop

LANDING: Mitchell Watt. Picture: Peter Stoop

LANDING: Mitchell Watt. Picture: Peter Stoop

Watt started convincingly with a jump of 7.22m, then fouled in round two before posting his winning leap of 7.54m and ending with 7.46m.

Watt said his performance at Glendale’s Hunter Sports Centre indicated he had improved since his breakout 2012 season, when he became the world’s second best long-jumper behind Britain’s Greg Rutherford.

‘‘Off that run-up, it’s pretty close to my best,’’ he said.

‘‘Certainly it’s better than anything I did off that run-up in 2012, so I’m probably ahead of where I was last year.’’

The season-opening meet of Athletics Australia’s 2013 national series was Watt’s first step on the long road to Rio.

‘‘It’s 3 years away, but it doesn’t seem that long ago we were talking about Beijing and London,’’ he said.

‘‘It comes around pretty quickly.

‘‘We’ve got two world championships between now and then … but certainly Rio is the long-term goal and everything we do between now and then is aimed at that.’’

By 2016, Watt believes he will be ready to go one better than he did in London.

‘‘I’m only 24 at the moment, and I think a lot of track-and-field people don’t peak until their late 20s,’’ he said.

‘‘I’ve got a silver at worlds, and a silver at the Olympics and I’ve definitely, definitely got it [a gold medal] in me.’’

Watt was one of three London Olympians to win their events at Glendale.

Wollongong’s Ryan Gregson claimed the 800m title in 1 minute 49.08 seconds, while sprinter Anthony Alozie blitzed the field to win the 100m in 10.66.

A fourth London Games representative, Tim Leathart, withdrew on Saturday afternoon from the 100m on his physiotherapist’s advice.

Two-time Olympian Benn Harradine, from Eleebana, could not compete after recent knee surgery, but in his absence another Novocastrian, 20-year-old Liam Speers, won the discus with a throw of 51.43m.

Georgetown heptathlete Sophie Stanwell posted a personal best to win the women’s 200m, while Sydney 19-year-old Nicholas Hough claimed wins in the men’s 200m and 110m hurdles.

Newcastle’s Christie Dawes, a five-time Paralympian, finished second in the wheelchair teams pursuit race.

Northern Ireland’s Paul Robinson won the 1500m in 3:42.54.

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