After a quiet decade in what has historically been a strong event in Australian athletics, fast-improving Anneliese Rubie has made a big breakthrough in the women’s 400m.
Having only learnt a fortnight ago that she would be contesting the individual one-lap race at the world championships in Beijing, the 23-year-old NSW runner made the most of it, slashing more than half a second off her personal best with a run of 51.69 on Monday to book a berth in the semis.
Rubie was lucky to be drawn in the same heat as US superstar Allyson Felix, meaning the pace was always going to be hot.
She ran a measured race and held on strongly in the final straight to finish fifth.
“I had an absolute ball,” said Rubie, who has now smashed her PB three times in the space of a month.
“I executed my race almost perfectly.
“I didn’t want to leave the race thinking there was anything left in the tank and I’ve definitely done that.
“The time is great, it’s well into the 51-second area, not just inside it.
“After the year I’ve had it’s so exciting.
“And it’s an Olympic qualifier – tick.”
Not since Cathy Freeman won the second of her two successive titles in 1999 has an Australian woman advanced to the 400m semis at the world championships.
No one is suggesting that Rubie is in Freeman’s class – or that she will ever be.
But she is heading in the right direction, with the improvement continuing after she linked with Freeman’s former coach Peter Fortune following the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
“I want to improve in the next round,” she said.
“I think I am in even better shape, but I’m stoked regardless.
“It’s just a bonus after only getting into the championships late.”
The only other Australian women to have bettered 52 seconds in the past decade are Jana Pittman and Tamsyn Manou – and neither of them were one-lap specialists.