STEVE Solomon’s first emotion was “pure joy and elation” when he found out last week that he’d made Australia’s 63-strong athletics squad for the Tokyo Olympics, as its men’s 400m runner, and the squad’s co-captain.
It will be the 28-year-old Sydneysider’s second Olympic Games, and his first since the 2012 Olympics in London when he made the men’s 400m final as a fresh-faced 19-year-old, only to miss out on qualifying for the 2016 games in Rio by a fraction of a second.
Solomon told The AJN on Monday, “To miss Rio, and then have the pandemic delay the Tokyo Olympics by a year – and the qualifying period for it – was really tough”.
“The truth in our sport is you can put in all the required work at training, but still not realise your dream – so I’m just so happy and excited that I have.
“And although it’s going to be a very different Olympics atmosphere in Tokyo [due to the COVID-19 restrictions], we all feel tremendously grateful to the Olympics organisers for actually making it happen.”
As Solomon fell 0.4 of a second short of the required Olympics men’s 400m time of 44.9 seconds in the qualifying period, he relied on earning a spot via the quota system, which was calculated on world rankings on June 30, 2021.
“It was a rollercoaster of a ride, because I’d felt confident, as I was ranked 32nd, and the top 40 were to be included,” Solomon explained.
“Then my ranking fell to 37th, but in the last few days, the top 48 ranked athletes were included, so I was in for sure.”
Solomon had to deal with niggling injuries up until December last year, but is feeling 100 per cent fit now.
“I had to maintain high-intensity training for another consecutive season due to the Olympics’ postponement, and that took its toll on my body,” he said.
“But I had good people around me, I have an incredibly loving and supportive family, a great coach (Penny Gillies), and then I met an amazing woman, Gabi (his girlfriend), who has definitely helped me get through it all.”
Solomon said he’ll need another fortnight before he will be in a position to set specific performance goals for his 400m event, which will start with the heats on August 1.
But he added, “More than anything, I’m just excited to see how one of the biggest athletics teams Australia has ever sent to an Olympic Games goes in Tokyo, and just does its thing.
“We have 22 Olympic debutants in the athletics team, so as a co-captain, I want to help them be as confident as they can, because it can be a daunting task at your first Olympics.
“I want to share my experience of my own debut, and help them in any way I can.”
The extended Sydney lockdown has thrown a late spanner in the works for Solomon’s preparation, delaying him from joining a pre-Olympics training camp in warm and sunny Cairns, so he will continue training in Sydney for now.