Australian sprinter Steven Solomon will compete in the 400-meter final on Monday, after qualifying with a second consecutive personal best time at Sunday night's semifinals.
Solomon, who only took up professional sprinting in 2009, bolted through the first semifinal in 44.97 seconds – finishing third with an improvement on his previous PB from the heats.
With the top two qualifying automatically for the final, the former Maccabi soccer star had an agonizing wait to see if his sub-45 second time would be good enough to make the final. It was – he qualified seventh for Tuesday's showdown.
“I came third and I wasn't quite sure if I was going to make it,” the Sydney resident told media after the race. “I'm absolutely stoked. I came into the race really nervous. I really wanted to make the final. I really believed in myself and when I crossed the line I saw that I had broken the 45 (second) barrier.
“Two personal bests in two days. I am just really looking forward to the final and giving it absolutely everything I have for myself and my country.”
His coach, Ukranian immigrant Fira Dvoskina, was elated as she watched the race live in Sydney on Monday morning.
“We talked yesterday on Skype and I told him what mistakes he made when he ran the heat and he said he’ll fix it. He ran 44.97 – I cannot believe it.”
She said his goal is to run 44.80, but she is not sure that’ll be good enough to win a medal. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “Australia has not had a male 400m runner in the Olympic final for a very long time. He is one of the top eight runners in the world.”
Darren Clark was the last Australian man to make a 400m Olympic final, coming fourth in Seoul in 1988.
Harry Procel, a Maccabi Australia veteran who is in London at the Olympic Stadium with the Solomon family, said: “He did brilliantly to win his heat with a PB by 0.34 seconds. He certainly needed another PB to make the final, which he did by improving by another 0.21 seconds to break the 45-second barrier,” Procel said.
“He ran a beautifully controlled race and handled the pressure with aplomb.”
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