Melissa Breen © Gallo Images

Pearson, Hooker headline Australia athletics team



Sprinter Melissa Breen has been handed a place in Australia's athletics team for the London Olympics, despite missing the automatic qualifying standard by two thousands of a second.

The 21-year-old Breen was named on Wednesday to run the 100 metres and the 4x100 metres relay after posting a series of quick times in her hunt for selection. Selectors also took into account her domination of the domestic season and named her among a 54-strong team, the second-largest Australian team for an Olympic games.

The team is headlined by world 100 metres hurdles champion Sally Pearson, defending Olympic pole vault champion Steve Hooker and 2011 world championships long jump silver medalist Mitchell Watt.

Three-time Olympian Tamsyn Lewis was the team's notable omission after failing to meet the demanding standard of 1 minute 59.90 seconds in the 800 metres. Long jumper Fabrice Lapierre, the 2010 world indoor champion, also missed selection after failing to reach the automatic qualifying standard.

If Lapierre can jump an A-qualifying distance in the next month, ahead of the IOC deadline, he could yet be added to the team.

Joel Milburn has been picked to run the 400 metres, edging out Sean Wroe who won a bronze medal at the 2009 world championships.

Rising star Steve Solomon and 2006 Commonwealth Games champion John Steffensen were named in the men's 4x400m relay squad and might still run the individual 400 metres if they can better the standard of 45.30 seconds over the next few weeks.

Solomon and Breen owe their selections in part of the so-called "Rio clause" which allows the Australian selectors discretion to choose young and promising athletes who may feature at the 2014 Rio de Janiero Games.

"I can't believe it. I am pinching myself," Breen told the Sydney Morning Herald. "This is something I have dreamt about my whole life and now it is a reality.

"I have been sitting here thinking about getting the uniform and being and the opening ceremony and being in the village, even just walking into the canteen and I can't get the smile off my face. I must look like a mad woman but I can't help it."

The team features men's 4x100 and 4x400 relay squads and a women's 4x100 squad. Only the top 16 teams in the world will compete in London and the women's team is currently ranked 16th, vulnerable to being dislodged by teams competing at the European Championships on July 1 and 2.

The mens' 4x400 team is ranked 12th in the world and the 4x100 team is 15th but both could lift their rankings in competition before the games.

Pearson underlined her reputation as the hurdler to beat in London when she ran a time of 12.49 seconds in Oslo last week, matching her best time of the year and beating American Kristi Castlin and Briton Tiffany Porter.



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