John Steffensen edging closer to Olympic qualifying time
by: Glenda Korporaal
February 20, 2012
CONTROVERSIAL 400m runner John Steffensen will be looking to confound his critics again at the Olympic trials in Melbourne on March 2 after winning the Sydney track classic on the weekend in an improved time.
Steffensen held off Kenyan world 800m record-holder David Rudisha to win the 400m in 45.61sec, getting him closer to the Olympic qualifying time of 45.3sec.
Rudisha finished in 45.82sec while Ben Offereins came third in 46.09sec. This followed Steffensen's win in 46.11sec in Perth the week before, his first time on the track in Australia since last July.
Steffensen, who lives in California, kept a low profile last week following his outburst in Perth where he described his win as a "murder scene" and suggested that someone should have "dialled 000" to get an ambulance to pick up the "boys" behind him.
Although made in jest, his remarks sparked off a storm of controversy, including from world champion hurdler Sally Pearson on Friday, who indicated she did not approve of him criticising other athletes, particularly when they may be his teammates in a 4x400m relay in London.
A slightly more subdued Steffensen compared himself to former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting on Saturday night.
"Like Ricky Ponting says, you can't stop a great man at work," he said. "Anyone who faces the criticism I've had to face and still has to come out and run is a champion."
Steffensen, a member of the 4x400m relay team that won silver in the 2004 Games in Athens, rejected the suggestion he was going through a "reincarnation".
"I'm just doing what I'm meant to do and run fast. I've got great backing and I'm truly blessed to be in this position," he said.
Steffensen joked in a television interview on the weekend that there was no need to "dial 000" for an ambulance as there was already one at the track on Saturday night. But he avoided any questions from journalists apart from the official broadcaster.
Tamysn Manou (nee Lewis), who easily won the 800m on Saturday in 2min 1.53sec, strongly defended Steffensen. "I love listening to his interviews," she said. "They are entertaining. He is not being serious."
Also on the weekend, Pearson continued her strong start to the season by winning the hurdles in 12.66sec, her fastest time in Australia, despite hitting the last hurdle. She backed up with an Olympic qualifying time of 23.06sec in the 200m.
More Olympic qualifying times were clocked up, including 400m hurdler Lauren Boden, who finished in 55.45sec.