Steve Solomon (NSW) has broken the Australian 400m indoor record in South Carolina on Friday evening.
Solomon, currently studying a Masters in Management Studies (MMS) at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, bettered the previous mark of 45.93 set by Daniel Batman (ACT) in 2003, clocking 45.44 to finish as fastest qualifier in the heats ahead of Saturday’s final within the Clemson University meet.
It was the 24-year-old’s first time running a 400m event on a banked 200m indoor track, something which given Solomon’s history of hamstring injuries left him debating whether he was even going to run a few days ago. A few practice sessions on the track in South Carolina revealed that not only was Solomon feeling comfortable but fast.
“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t look up the Australian record last night [on Thursday],” Solomon says. “Just to have a little peak, but I was really quite in shock when I saw the time on the board. I didn’t know where to look. I was very high with adrenaline.”
Solomon rolled the dice and chose not to compete at last week’s Australian Athletics Championships & Nomination Trial on the Gold Coast where he would have been aiming for a record-sixth national 400m title, surpassing Kevan Gosper’s five. His selection in the Australian team for the upcoming Commonwealth Games is currently in the hands of selectors with an announcement due this week.
Solomon, in his last year of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) eligibility, said that not competing last weekend in Australia was a decision he didn’t take lightly.
“It was very stressful,” he admits. “It wasn’t something that I wanted to do in the sense that I hated not being able to compete at the nationals.
“When I looked at the facts and tried to take my emotion out of the decision it really was the best move to put me in a good position come the Commonwealth Games, should I make the team, and I knew that I’d be leaving my selection to discretion which caused a lot of uneasy nights of sleep. But I was really confident in my plan.
“At the end of the day it saved me over 50 hours of travel, it saved me from having to take time away from my academic program and really it just saved me the risk of having to race straight off the plane, come back to school for five weeks and do it all again,” Solomon says.
Hailing from Sydney, Solomon is hoping to make his second Commonwealth Games appearance in April. A hamstring injury in the 400m semi-finals in Glasgow dashed Solomon’s hopes of being able to repeat his performance at the London Olympic Games where he was a finalist - the first Australian since Darren Clark. Surgery followed, and the scar that runs down his left leg a reminder of how far he has come.
“That’s just one of the things in sport that just happens,” Solomon says. “I’ve been really lucky to have a fantastic medical team back in Australia and while I’ve been overseas who have really looked after that injury to the point that it’s never given me trouble since that race and I’m racing with a lot of confidence now.”
A stronger athlete, months of conditioning and longer runs clearly paying off with the evidence of the hard work is in his new Australian indoor record.
“I was really, really pleased with today,” Solomon says. “It was a plan that my coach and I had set forth months ago, to open up a 400m this weekend. I started the season with a lot of over distance work; I ran my first 800s ever; my fitness was there and it was about time to start turning the wheels over a little bit more and I couldn’t be more happy with how today went.”