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Tamsyn talks about talent and big expectations

Tuesday, 11 July 2017 | Josh Papanikolaou

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Expectations on young athletes can rise sharply when that often-unexpected breakout performance bobs up and the record books are brought out to determine just how great this teenager can become.

Athletics federations, coaches and fans are always on the lookout for such results and often they are never replicated for numerous reasons – with over-training as a youngster at the top of the list.

Tamsyn Manou, a former indoor 800m world champion and three-time Olympian, was one of those who met big expectations finishing her career with 18 national titles and a world-class personal best card.

Her first senior national team was as a relay runner at the 1994 Commonwealth Games at just 16 years of age, before making her global meet debut in 1999 at the world championships in Sevilla.

Going to Spain with a personal best of 2:00.95, the best part of five seconds off the world lead, she went on to run 2:03.03 for sixth place in heat two.

“Ha I'm old yes but still remember, the heat was after 10pm and it was still well over 30 degrees,” Manou said of those championships she competed in as a 21-year-old.

“My first race in Europe was a PB and then I held form during the season but really got blown away by the kick down the women produced in the heat.

“It showed me I was just a little fish in Australia and I learnt I needed to be a lot tougher than I was if I wanted to be considered world class.

“Winning in Australia meant nothing on the world stage, it was just a stepping stone and the next year I did much better on the circuit and at a home Olympics.”

At those 2000 Olympic Games the then named Tamsyn Lewis produced a near personal best of 1:59.33 in the semi-finals in Sydney – missing out on the final by just three hundredths of a second.

Hopefully without providing unnecessary expectation on young middle-distance runner Georgia Griffith, similarities can be made of the two runners at the same age running very similar times.

Griffith has clocked two big personal bests this season over 800m and 1500m, which could see the 20-year-old qualify in both events at the upcoming world championships in London.

Within a week she covered two laps in 2:00.90 in Portland during a training stint in the US, before a 4:07.32 in the metric mile at the Stumptown Twilight meet.

“I think she should go into the worlds with the goal to learn as much as she possibly can,” Manou said of Griffith’s form.

“Racing rounds at a major is so different to the circuit, but if she is brave yet can stay composed and relaxed, easier said than done, she will be able to attack it and learn a lot from the experience.

“I don't think we should put any expectations on her shoulders except to say she's there because she's good enough now to be a part of the line-up. 

“She will race the best of the best and learn what she needs to do to be a contender for semis and finals in the future.

“Like I said lots to learn – for example, how to hold form from domestic, to circuit, to major and how to become a conditioned athlete.

“What preparation works best, like a Melbourne winter is cold but then where to base and how far out, there’s so much to learn.

“How exciting though it's just the beginning of what I believe will be a fantastic journey for her.”

Manou has been a significant inspirational figure in Griffith’s journey so far as a middle-distance runner, at times providing advice and well-deserved encouragement.

Her development since joining Steve Ellinghaus’ training squad at Box Hill in 2011 has been monitored closely and Manou has been impressed with what she has seen so far.

“Having seen Georgia race through school carnivals to now she has a lovely relaxed way about her on and off the track,” she recalled.

“She has natural ability over 400 – 1500m which means she has all the ingredients required to be a world class middle distance runner.

“Her style has always been quite effortless and she covers the ground extremely well so she ticks so many of the boxes when it comes to what to look for in an athlete with potential at senior level.

“She also has a lot more room to grow as hasn't been pushed too hard at junior level which is a positive.”

Griffith’s run over 800m at the Portland Track Festival sling-shotted her up to 13th on the all-time Australian rankings, not far off the top ten.

Only five Australian women have ever broken the two-minute barrier, one of those being Manou, and it would seem Griffith is on course to dip under a mark considered to be world-class.

“Yes, I definitely believe she is capable of breaking two minutes,” Manou said.

“It's more difficult being an Aussie 800 runner as it's a tough gig on the road especially in Europe away from your coach and training group and it’s tough to do on your own in Australia from the front without sub-two competition.”

Earlier this year Canberra high school student Keely Small clocked an Australian junior record of 2:01.46 and others including Griffith’s training partner Sarah Billings have shown promising signs.

“There is potential depth amongst the current crop of 800 girls and the ones coming through which suggest fast times can be achieved domestically if the girls are willing to attack that first lap,” Manou added.

“If they are and Georgia has company in that second lap she will be able to learn the trade here and also be able to take that strength across to Europe/America where having more fast competitors will drag her through.

“She is 20 and still a very raw talent… but Georgia has a home Commonwealths next year and I think this world champs trip will help her be a contender for the final at those Games.”

 

 

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