ALL hail King Solomon! The self-belief and remarkable personal best (PB) performance by 28-year-old Steve Solomon at the Olympic Games in Tokyo this week – in the face of a heavily disrupted preparation – sealed his place in Australian men’s 400m royalty, and instantly returned him to the top 15 in the world rankings.
The Australian athletics team co-captain – who’d missed out on qualifying for the 2016 Olympics by a split-second – turned back the clock in the heats last Sunday morning by beating his PB of 44.97 seconds that he’d set when a teenager in the semis of the 2012 London Olympics, by 0.03 of a second.
With a world ranking of 50 on the day, and only an official season best time of 46.82 to his name, Solomon was able to translate all his experience and hard work into success at that precise moment, in scorching heat and humidity.
He executed his race plan perfectly by saving enough energy to power home in the last bend, finishing second in his heat, and qualifying for the semis the following night.
Solomon’s sister Bianca, and their parents Michael and Lucille, watched the live TV broadcast from their home in Sydney’s east, living and breathing every stride that he took.
Michael told The AJN that afternoon, “It was absolutely phenomenal! We were watching it as a family – including our dog – and just screaming our heads off, and our phones haven’t stopped ringing since.
“What Steve did – a PB in Tokyo in 38-degree heat – was wonderful to see, especially knowing all the injuries he’s had recently.
“Three months ago, he was unable to train, and he’d only had three races all year, all in Australia, and then had to train in the cold in Sydney last month [due to the lockdown] instead of training with the team in Cairns.”
On Tuesday night, in the second of three semi-finals, Solomon backed up by posting an impressive time of 45.15 seconds to finish in third place – and 13th overall – just missing out on making what would have been his second Olympic final.
Immediately after his semi, a satisfied Solomon told Channel 7 he’d given it everything, and feels reinvigorated by his results in Tokyo.
“I was just a little short in the legs tonight, but it’s such an honour and privilege to be back competing for Australia,” he said.
“[It’s been] nine years between PBs, and I can tell you there’s been many, many brutal training sessions, many hours in MRI machines and doctors’ consultations.
“There were times over the last nine years where I asked whether it was time for me to devote my energy onto other things.
“But I’m so grateful for my coach Penny [Gillies], my family, and my team … and I’m back, I’m healthy, and I’m running the fastest I’ve ever run.
“I’m just totally excited to keep going next year, continue mixing it with the guys, and really get back to the top eight in the world.”
After his semi-final on Tuesday night, Bianca posted on her brother’s Instagram site: “We’re beyond proud of Steve. He’s proven to himself, and the world, that he’s right up there with the best. Thank you for all of your beautiful messages.”
Solomon will remain in Tokyo until the end of the Games, in his role as team co-captain, to cheer on members of Australia’s youngest, and largest ever, Olympics athletics squad, including Jemima Montag, whose 20km women’s race walk will start at 5.30pm tomorrow (August 6).
“We are having a phenomenal [Olympics] as a team … which gives me a lot of joy,” Solomon added.