19 April 2017
Nelson follows in the footsteps of Mel GT into the 4x400m relay
This weekend in the Bahamas, 200m specialist, Ella Nelson will line up on the Australian 4x400m relay at the IAAF world relays. She follows the pathway Melinda Gainsford-Taylor blazed in the 90s where she was a key member of the relay team.
During the 90s the Australian women 400m stocks were at an all-time high. Eleven of the top-17 of all-time were competing, all with best times under 51.8 seconds. Yet a regular on the national 4x400m relay was a 200m specialist who during decade of the 90s and the year 2000 ran just four individual 400m races.
The athlete was Melinda Gainsford-Taylor, who at the time was the national 100m and 200m record-holder. However, her 200m best of 22.23 indicated she was superior over the longer sprint.
She was first drafted into the 4x400m relay for the 1995 world championships where she ran the heat and final helping the team to a bronze medal. She ran flying legs times at 51.90 and 51.82. Her place on future teams was confirmed. The very next year she again joined the relay team, running at the Atlanta Olympics where she ran 51.88 in the 4x400m relay heats. In her swansong from the sport, she was also on the Sydney 2000 4x400m relay, being drafted into run the final. In the last race of her career, she clocked 51.06, helped the team to fifth place and broke the Australian record, they had set in the heats.
Ella Nelson could be rated more a specialist 200m athlete that Mel Gainsford-Taylor. In 2015, her 100m PB sat at a modest 11.66, a time she reduced to 11.42 in 2016. In what was a sign of the future, in 2014 she ran her first 400m as a senior athlete. Two months after the Commonwealth Games, on a cool October day in Sydney, Nelson clocked 54.00. This one run indicated significant potential if she ever concentrated on the event.
Nelson travels to the Bahamas this week, certainly not in the 22.50 200m shape she was in Rio, but with the potential to become a regular member of our strong national 4x400m relay team and one day maybe move up to the event permanently. Two of Australia’s greatest ever 100m/200m sprinters, Raelene Boyle and Betty Cuthbert closed their careers in glory winning gold in the 400m at the Commonwealth and Olympics respectively.
Joining Nelson in the Bahamas will be 11 athletes. The full Australian teams are:
IAAF World Relays 22-23 April, 2017 Nassau (BAH)
M 4x100m Relay: Nicholas Andrews (NSW), Aaron Bresland (WA), Rohan Browning (NSW), Tom Gamble (Qld), Alex Hartmann (Qld), Trae Williams (Qld)
W 4x400m Relay: Caitlin Jones (Qld), Morgan Mitchell (Vic), Ella Nelson (NSW), Anneliese Rubie (NSW), Olivia Tauro (NSW)
M 4x800m Relay: Mason Cohen (NSW), James Gurr (NSW), Luke Mathews (Vic), Josh Ralph (NSW), Jordan Williamsz (Vic)
W 4x800m Relay: Zoe Buckman (Vic), Abbey de la Motte (Tas), Alicia Keir (NSW), Heidi See (NSW), Lora Storey (NSW)
In the 800m relays Lora Storey and Mason Cohen make their well-deserved Australian team debut. Storey was the dominate half-miler last summer and at 28-years-old, she will now wear the green and gold. As a junior, Cohen’s destiny seemed the 2014 world juniors. He placed second in the trials (national under-20), but alas his time of 1:49.82, was just 0.32 seconds outside the qualifying standard.
The Australian team for the Bahamas includes Alicia Keir who way back at 14 years ran 55 second for 400m. Now graduated to the 800m, running two PBs last summer.
Another to have missed world juniors was Rohan Browning, but after a tremendous domestic season where he placed third in the 100m, the teenager he gets his chance here on the 4x100m relay.
David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall for Athletic NSW
Image: Ella Nelson (image courtesy of David Tarbotton)