Bol breaks Oceania record as Australian men master the mile

Peter Bol has lowered the Australian 800 metres for the third time and thought for a moment he’d earned a perfect early birthday present for his coach at the Paris Diamond League meeting.

The brilliant half-miler was outpaced for victory on Saturday night by an inspired but controversial finish from home favourite Benjamin Robert, with Bol’s handsome consolation being a new Oceanian landmark of one minute 44.00 seconds for the two-lap event.

When news came through that the Frenchman had been disqualified, it left the Perth runner to wonder if he’d been handed the ideal gift for his coach Justin Rinaldi, whose birthday is on Sunday.

But an appeal from the French runner was upheld later.

“I wanted to run 1:43 and give Justin an early birthday present for tomorrow. Came a bit short but stoked with the PB and national record,” Bol, who bettered his own Oceanian mark of 1:44.11 set at the Olympics last year when he finished fourth, said.

“It was no surprise at all. We’ve built this new level of confidence and when training is going well there’s no reason why we can’t run those fast times and be competitive on the world stage.

“Seeing (training partner and former Australian record holder) Joseph (Deng) run the (world championship) standard last week was awesome and running a 1500m PB last week was just part of training.

“We’ve just been building strength and endurance. The difference is though since Joseph ran his qualifier last week the energy has been high and that’s a major benefit in itself.”

In a frenetic finish, it would have been harsh for Robert to have the win taken from him after he’d only nudged through as easily the fastest finisher, with Bol the next quickest on the outside.

“In the last 200m, I was burnt,” said Robert. “I said to myself, ‘It’s gonna be hard to finish’. Then something happened in the last 50 metres – the second wind.

“It’s difficult to explain but it proves that you cannot give up, everything can happen. It’s my first victory on Diamond League – and it happens in Paris. The pressure was strong with this crowd, but we need to get used to that before Paris 2024 Olympics!”

Bol was not too upset he couldn’t quite break the magic 1:44 mark, convinced “we can definitely go 1:43” and that he’s well-primed to challenge for a medal at both the world championships and Commonwealth Games.

“My goal for both Championships is to medal. Keep my head up, keep ticking off sessions and competing strong against any field. I believe medals are within reach,” added Bol, who’s now joint-top of the Diamond League 800m standings with Canadian Marco Arop.

Australia’s Olympic high jump silver medallist Nicola Olyslagers – formerly McDermott, before her recent marriage – cleared 1.95m but it was only enough for joint-third as she was eclipsed by Ukraine’s Yaroslava Mahuchikh, who jumped a 2022 world best of 2.01m.

Kelsey Lee Barber, bronze medallist from Tokyo, was fifth in the javelin (60.60 metres), finishing one place behind her Aussie teammate Mackenzie Little (61.23m).

International star of the night at the Stade Charlety was Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who equalled her world-leading time of the year in the 100m in 10.67 seconds and looked in fine nick to go for a 10th world championship gold in Eugene next month.

Bol’s record-breaking feat completes a stellar week for Australian athletics after Sydney’s Ollie Hoare shattered the Australian record for the mile in Oslo, Norway.

Hoare ran an astonishing 3.47:48 when second in the Oslo Mile – beaten only by the Olympic 1500m champion Jakob Ingebritsen. It makes Hoare a leading contender for the upcoming World Track and Field Championships in the 1500m, and clear favourite to win gold at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in July.