TRAINING in heat chambers, the humidity of Cairns and the late-summer Italian sunshine all helped Australian women’s 20km race walker Jemima Montag nail a dream top-10 finish in her World Athletics Championships debut in the desert heat of Doha.
Conditions were so extreme, the race was delayed until midnight on September 30 when it had “cooled down” to the low 30s.
Despite tripping at the 1km mark, the 21-year-old 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist kept pace with the lead group for the duration of the race, finishing 10th out of 45 in a time of 1:36.54.
Delighted with the result, Montag described her first taste of the world championships as “thrilling, exciting, confusing, all in one”.
“It was about patience and holding back, rather than chasing – getting a PB wasn’t really on the cards.”
She credited her coach Brett Valance for planning her preparation perfectly.
“Halfway through the race I said to myself, in these quirky conditions you just have to focus on you, trust your prep and try to block out the evil voice in your head that’s telling you that this is hard.
“I could also hear Aussies yelling ‘stay in there’ … it really lifts you.
“Looking ahead to Tokyo (the 2020 summer Olympic Games), where it is going to be similarly hot and humid, it does instil some confidence that my body can withstand these conditions – and that’s very exciting.”
Experienced men’s 400m runner and 2012 Olympic finalist Steven Solomon is also feeling pumped about Tokyo.
Doha was the Sydneysider’s third world championships appearance, but his first as Australian Athletics Team co-captain, which he described as a great honour.
Solomon, 26, clocked a time of 45.82 seconds to finish fourth in his heat on October 1.
He bettered that in the semis the next evening with 45.54 – his season best time – but it wasn’t enough to make the final.
“I went out there with the right frame of mind [in the semis],” Solomon said post-race.
“I was a little bit too passive coming into the front of that back straight, but at the end of the day, I’m tremendously proud to wear the green and gold, I’m feeling healthy and I feel like I’m doing some of my best running ever.
“If I can come into next season healthy, that’s a recipe for success … I want to medal in Tokyo.”
Solomon also ran strongly in the first leg of the men’s 4×400 relay heats, where Australia finished eighth in a race that saw contact made by an Italian runner during the third baton change.
“It was the first time this quartet has run together, and it won’t be the last, so hopefully we can learn from what happened, and improve next time.”