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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Steve Hooker puzzled by Melbourne showing

Olympic and world champion Steve Hooker says it was a "bit of a shock" to perform well below his expectations, despite winning the pole vault at the IAAF Melbourne Track Classic on Thursday night.

Hooker entered the competition at 5.65 metres and cleared with ease on his first attempt, however he failed to registered a successful clearance at 5.85m even though weather conditions were ideal at Olympic Park for what was the opening IAAF World Challenge meeting of the year.

His opening vault was easily good enough to secure victory ahead of Matt Boyd and Blake Lucas, who tied for second with 5.15m, but the inability to clear what was a regulation height clearly perplexed the 27-year-old Hooker.

His form so far this season has been solid, with a clearance of 5.95m winning him the event at last Saturday night's Sydney Track Classic at Homebush.

It was a performance that suggested he has fully recovered from the adductor muscle tear that almost derailed what was ultimately a successful world championships campaign in Berlin last August.

Hooker, who will now turn his attention to the world indoor championships in Doha beginning next week, says he is unsure as to why he could not clear a height above 5.65m in Melbourne.

He says he and coach Alex Parnov will now need to go back to the drawing board before Doha and next month's national championships in Perth.

"Up until I was out of the competition I thought it was still going to be a big night," he said.

"So, it was a bit of a shock.

"I guess that happens. I'll have to spend some time with Alex and try and work out what exactly was going on, because it felt like I should be clearing those bars."

Another Olympic and world champion competing in Melbourne was New Zealand's Valerie Vili, who comfortably won the women's shot put.

Vili faced little competition from the remainder of the five-woman field to throw 20.05m, well down on her season best of 20.57m, which won her the event in Sydney.

She says she is satisfied with her showing in Melbourne, despite not matching her performance from Sydney.

"I'm pretty happy with how I performed considering I'm not feeling 100 per cent," she said.

Vili will also be travelling to Doha where she will defend her world indoor crown, although she is mindful she may not enter as favourite considering Belarusian Nadzeya Ostapchuk has already thrown 21.70m under the roof this year.

But she says she is confident she can rise to the occasion.

"You've got to perform when it counts," she said.

"World indoors is obviously a massive target for me, so I'll see what happens."

McLellan wins

Olympic 100m hurdles silver medallist Sally McLellan posted another victory in the women's 200m, running 23.59 to win ahead of Laura Whaler (23.78) and Melissa Breen (23.83).

McLellan, who is bypassing the hurdles during the domestic season because of the back injury that cruelled her chances in Berlin last year, also won the half lap in Sydney.

She had earlier withdrawn from the 100m in Melbourne, allowing the 19-year-old Breen to post her third victory in the event on the Australian Athletics Tour in 11.41.

Whaler, who beat Breen in the century in the Tour's opening meet in Canberra in January but was a runner-up in Brisbane and Hobart, was second in 11.56.

Nigerian Bola Lawal claimed the men's 100m, his showboating antics at the finish line somewhat surprising considering his unimpressive time of 10.33 (1.2 tailwind) in finishing ahead of this season's most consistent performers, Patrick Johnson (10.42) and Matt Davies (10.43).

Davies got his revenge when he won the Peter Norman Memorial 200m in 20.83 to beat Lawal (20.91) and Johnson (21.11).

In other events, Western Australia's Jody Henry reversed her defeat over the 400m in Canberra to Tamsyn Lewis, holding on in the home straight to defeat the three-time Olympian 52.41 to 52.64.

And Jamaican veteran Danny McFarlane took out the men's 400m hurdles in 49.92, despite a shaky clearance on the penultimate set of barriers when holding a comfortable lead over Australia representative Brendan Cole.

The 38-year-old McFarlane, a silver medallist at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, appeared set to fall to the track yet he maintained his footing to go on and win, albeit with the aid of Cole knocking down the final hurdle.

Cole, who made the semi-finals at the world championships last year, was second in 50.42 and Great Britain's Danny Brandwood came home third with a time of 50.83.
source abc.net.au