Bol lights up the 800m as Browning goes back to work

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When Bruce McAvaney says, “he can win gold”, well, that’s special.

As far as Australia was concerned, Sunday night at the Olympics belonged to 800-metre runner Peter Bol.

He came into the semi-final on the back of the new national record he set in the heats, and then broke it again asking, “how good is that?”

Pretty good, Peter, pretty damn good.


In a snap decision ahead of the Games, he took off to Europe to get some races under his belt. It paid off.

“They were the best preparation to come over here,” Bol said.

“When I went to Gateshead and came third I was like to James [Templeton, manager] and Justin [Rinaldi, coach] I think we can win a medal.

“And they were like, let’s not get too excited, you’ve got to get to the final first, so now we’re here … the only thing is, I wish my boy Josey was here with me.”

Josey is Joseph Deng, Bol’s close friend and training partner who owned the national record until Bol decided to go on a shopping spree in Tokyo and collect a couple as Olympic mementos.

But the new national record of 1.44.41, while history-making, is not as important as finishing ahead of the pack when it counts — that would be at approximately five past nine on Wednesday evening.

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Bol is pumped. He is feeling strong. And he refuses to change his game plan or his social media habits, despite team-mate Jeff Risely opting out of Instagram while he’s competing.

“I’m embracing all the social media stuff.

“Credit to Jeff, he’s so professional … I thought I better get off Instagram too but then I’m like, wait, I’m not Jeff.

“I’m myself and I’ve got to keep the same things that I keep doing.

Confidence a key ingredient, but not the only one

It was always going to be a tough ask for Rohan Browning to get through the semis and into the final of the Olympic men’s 100m in order to take on “all the world’s best guys”, whom he said, after the heats, were on his “hit list”.

Of the 24 semi-finalists 17 of them have run under 10 seconds, not that times are always brilliant at the Olympics, but they are a fair indication of the order of things.

Browning has the confidence required to win, he’s got sprinting class, now he just has to match those elements by continuing to improve his performance — and break that 10-second barrier.

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Only one Australian has ever run under 10 seconds, the man who hasn’t so easily given up the crown of Australia’s sprint king, Patrick Johnson. As it happened, he ran his 9.93 seconds in Japan back in 2003. This place is a happy hunting ground for Australians.

The level of expectation put on Browning heading into the semis was a combination of his own analysis after winning his heat in a personal best time of 10.01 seconds, and Australia’s constant desire to see one of our own making it in the truly world-class sporting field that athletics provides.

Browning said it himself — everyone can run 100 metres. Every kid grows up running no matter where they live, what their socio-economic status is, where they go to school, and without the need for special equipment or facilities.

That’s why it holds such a special place in the Olympic arena. It is perhaps the true measure of the “level playing field” so often referred to in sport, too often dishonestly.

Those who arrived in Tokyo to contest the 100 metres included a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dorian Keletela, who set a PB, to the economics professor from China, Su Bingtian, who qualified fastest for Sunday night’s final.

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The Italian who won the final, Lamont Marcell Jacobs, is a long jumper, father of three, born to an Italian mother and a Texan father in El Paso. 

Browning was philosophical after his semi-final elimination but obviously disappointed.

While Sunday wasn’t the night many thought it would be, he will grow from this experience. He said so himself.

“There are things I can work on, it’s part of the learning experience.”

On Saturday night, skating high after his heat win, Browning spoke of the Olympics being, “such a great opportunity to live your values and try and perform on a world stage”.

Asked about those values on Sunday, he said he’d rather keep them to himself.

Rohan Browning (centre) finished fifth in his 100 metres semi-final in a time of 10.09.(

Getty Images: Matthias Hangst


“Values are a very deep and personal thing,” he said, “I don’t want to share mine to be honest, I think it’s just something I’d rather keep close to my chest.”

And on whether the expectations of progressing without yet breaking the 10-second barrier were realistic?

“Well, I just thought it was within me to run something like that and I still think it is, it’s just about doing it on the day.

“Like I said, there’ll be more opportunities for me this year so I’m looking forward to them and hopefully trying to put them together.”

There is room for Browning to grow, and time for success to come. For now, it’s back to the grind.

Success in the Olympic arena is not a “right”, as paddler Jessica Fox’s mother, Myriam, told her after her loss in the C1 event and before her victory in the K1 final. You have to go out there and earn it.

Browning knows that. He knows what he has to do next.

“Sorry I couldn’t get it done today,” he said as he made his way out of Tokyo’s National Stadium, “but I just want to thank everybody for their support.”

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