Joseph Deng was born in a refugee camp in Kenya after his mother left South Sudan to escape war. At age six his family moved to Australia, settling in Toowoomba and ran his first race aged nine. Aged 12, he moved to Ipswich in 2010 and attended Raceview State School. A school mate encouraged him to attend after-school athletics coaching at Ipswich Grammar. There he meet his first coach Di Sheppard who nurtured his talent. Also, key in his development was uncle John Deng, who he lived with at Redbank. Over the next five years he developed under Di’s coaching and support from the school in the form of a scholarship. By his late teens he was already running quick times. He was selected in the Australian team for the 2016 World Juniors and on tour, while still 17, he clocked 1:47.90 for 800m. He just missed making the final at the World Junior Championships placing third in his semi. He closed his junior years with a PB of 1:46.51.
He started strongly in 2018 with two 1:47 runs. At the National Championships/CG trials he faced the challenging 800m progression to the final of only the five heat winners and fastest three non-winners. He was drawn in Luke Mathews’ heat - the favourite for the event. He ran a good time of 1:47.52 and placed second, but was unfortunately the fourth fastest non-winner, meaning he missed qualification for the final. He did however qualify for the B final. He ran from the front to win by nearly two seconds in a significant PB of 1:45.71. It was also a CG A qualifier and faster than Mathews won the A race. A week later, the selectors named the teenager as the third athlete in the 800m for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. At the Games he progressed from the heat into the final placing seventh while still in his teens.
In June he travelled to Europe and embarked on a five meets campaign. All five times were faster then his previous PB and four were sub-1:45, become the Australian with the most sub-1:45 in Australian history. The goal remained the Australian record of 1:44.40, nearly 50 years old, but he also had his training partner, Peter Bol also after the mark. At the Stockholm Diamond League he came closest clocking 1:44.61. With one race remaining, the Monaco Diamond League, Joseph ran the perfect race, to place seventh and eclipse the national record with a time of 1:44.21.
Superlatives for Deng's performance:
-broke the longest standing Australian record (Olympic events) of 1:44.40 held by Ralph Doubell (& Alex Rowe) set 49 years 278 days (or 18175) ago
-Breaks Peter Snell’s Oceania record of 1:44.3 – set 56 years 167days ago
-Justin Rinaldi now coaches three of the fastest five in history
-Deng now dominates the sub-1:45 list with four performances
-Doubell’s 1:44.40 when set was a world record
His hobbies are basketball and soccer. He is coached by Victorian Justin Rinaldi who guided Alex Rowe in 2014 to run 1:44.40, equalling the Australian record, which Deng broke in 2018.