Dani Stevens returns to competition at NSW champs
23 February 2017
ATHLETICS: One of Australia’s most consistent performers at major championships, Dani Stevens (nee Samuels), will start her season at the 2017 New South Wales track and field championships this weekend at Sydney Olympic Park.
Since finishing fourth in Rio at the Olympic Games last year the 2009 World Champion and 2014 Commonwealth Games winner has got married and taken a well-earned rest from competition.
“Last year was a massive year for me including the European season/Olympic preparation, which involved lots of travel,” Stevens explained.
“Competing in my third Olympic Games in Rio where I finished fourth and to top it all off I got married in October. It was a fantastic year!
“State champs this weekend is my first competition for the 2017 season, which I'm really looking forward to.
“I've been training well and we've been trying a few new things over the last few months so I'm keen to see how it’s all coming along.
“I'm hoping to get a really good start competing in our domestic season, which should mean I'm in good shape come August (at the London World Championships) and hopefully I can improve on my fourth place from last year.”
The 28-year-old from the Westfields Athletic Club had a stellar season in 2016 coming within 22cm of her personal best of 67.99m at the Shanghai Diamond League and nearly winning an Olympic medal.
Team Australia head coach Craig Hilliard praised the 11-time discus national champion, who also has five Australian shot put titles, for putting together another season of world-class throwing.
“Dani had one of her most consistent years in 2016. I know she was disappointed to not medal in Rio, but I don’t think even she believes she has reached her potential yet,” Hilliard said.
“She’s highly motivated for the next four-year cycle. She’s a sublime performer and ranked highly for a number of years now.”
Another event to watch at the NSW state championships will be the women’s 400m that will see two of Australia’s leading sprinters in Anneliese Rubie and Morgan Mitchell (VIC) go head-to-head.
Rubie may also contest the two-lap race at the meet as she continues to experiment with the 800m early in the season, but will be intent on making sure visiting Mitchell from Victoria does not steal her thunder on home soil.
Olympic hurdler Michelle Jenneke will contest the 100m and 100m hurdles at the championships as she continues her return to form after competing at the Coles Nitro Athletics Melbourne series.
The 23-year-old has brought her season’s best down to 13.23 after pulling up late in the race at the Hunter Track Classic earlier in the year.
Lora Storey could come up against Rubie again in the 800m this summer after storming home recently to win at the Hunter Track Classic, while Olympian Jenny Blundell is featured in the 1500m field.
Josh Clarke is the one to watch in the men’s events after clocking 10.22 sec in the heats of the 100m at the ACT championships last weekend.
He will also run the 200m and come up against another in-form sprinter in Tom Gamble who ran a 200m personal best of 20.61 sec at the same meet in Canberra, easily making him the fastest in the field.
In the 800m two local runners James Gurr and Jared West lead a field that also includes Ed Vining and Alex Pettigrew – and two-time national champion Nicholas Hough will feature in the 110m hurdles.
Australia’s leading steeplechaser James Nipperess will run in his favoured distance event, while Angus Armstrong is looking to continue his development in the pole vault with a third consecutive state title win.