Five long years after debuting as a raw relay runner at the world championships, sprint star Ella Connolly will take on many of the world’s fastest women at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
Now 21 and in the form of her life, Connolly will tackle the 100m, 200m, and 4x100m relay. On Tuesday, the Queenslander was among 53 athletes added to an 85-strong track and field team for the Games beginning in Birmingham in late July.
Joining her on the start-line will be great local hope and 2019 200m world champion Dina Asher-Smith and a host of fliers from the Caribbean, although the likes of powerhouse Jamaica have yet to finalize their squads.
“This is my first individual senior team, and it’s so exciting to know I’ll compete in the three events,” Connolly told AAP. “It’s been a pretty rough five years with injuries and those sorts of things, missing a lot of teams.
“I tore a hamstring about two weeks before the trials for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. I was super-devastated to miss a home Comm Games, even though I loved watching my friends compete there. Now I’m just grateful that I’ve been able to qualify this season. The 2017 world in London feels like a lifetime ago.”
Connolly’s PBs in the 100m (11.25) and 200m (22.95) were set in the last domestic summer season, and she plans to better both marks in Birmingham. Joining her in the 200m and the sprint relay will be a long-time friend and rival, Riley Day.
Rohan Browning – who at last year’s Tokyo Olympics went within a whisker of becoming just the second Australian to break the 10-second barrier – will headline the men’s sprint assault in Birmingham. Browning will contest the 100m and the 4x100m, while 21-year-old Queenslander Jake Doran has been named in individual sprints and the relay.
At the other end of the experience scale, Eloise Wellings will create history as the first Australian track and field athlete to compete at five Commonwealth Games. Now a mother of two, Wellings will form part of a formidable triple-thronged threat in the marathon alongside Sinead Diver and Jessica Stenson.
“I have vivid memories of my first Games in Melbourne as I was screaming down the home straight in front of 90,000 people,” the 39-year-old Wellings said. “I have beautiful memories like this from each of my Games appearances.
“To be selected for Birmingham is especially exciting after missing the Tokyo Olympics last year. As a female athlete, you’re never sure you will return to your best after having a baby.”
Tokyo Olympics medallists Nicola Olyslagers (high jump), Ash Moloney (decathlon), and Kelsey-Lee Barber (javelin) locked in their spots in the squad earlier this year.
It is a hectic few weeks for the biggest names in Australian track and field, with the July world championships in Oregon just before the Commonwealth Games. The Australian team for the world titles will be announced later this week.