Some silver
medals at the Commonwealth Games are better than others, and Craig Mottram’s
silver in the 5000m last night was as good as they get.

You were
obviously domiciled under a rock if you missed the debate in the lead-up to the
Games about its continued relevance. The withdrawals of Paula Radcliffe in the
aths, and Grant Hackett and Thorpedo in the swimming, gave an insight into
where a growing number of world-class athletes rank the Games in their list of
priorities, even if they went to the effort of having plausible excuses.

Then you’ve got
some sports where there’s bugger all depth in the Commonwealth. Look at the
swimming. While our girls have dominated, it’s hard to get too excited because
the Yanks aren’t there. So, too, Asafa Powell’s win in the 100m last night was
not even close to the class of field he will come up against in the Beijing
Olympics.

Which brings me
back to Mottram. Where some other competitors with half his pedigree have been
able to cruise to soft gold medals, poor old Buster came up against the might
of the Kenyans.

As we saw only
too clearly last night, any distance event that contains a full Kenyan contingent
is undoubtedly world class. Together with Mottram, the Kenyan trio conspired to
produce the first 5000m championship final – and that’s includes the Worlds and
the Olympics – to be run under 13 minutes.

Even though
Mottram well and truly took care of last year’s world champion, Ben
Limo, 19-year-old Augustine Choge popped up to take the gold. Kenya is
like that; it’s a
virtual conveyor belt of champion distance runners.

To put his
overall standing in world athletics in perspective, I don’t think anyone would
argue with me when I say Mottram is Australia’s best distance runner since the legendary Ron Clarke.

Which is significant
for Australian athletics because he may just be the man to rejuvenate the sport
here. If the kids in the stands and watching on TV at home can see a lone
Australian go toe-to-toe with the cream of Africa’s distance stars over 12 and
a half lung-busting laps, it may inspire them to set their sights on doing the
same in the future.

For the sake of
Australian athletics, we can only hope so.

Peter Fray

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