Australian sprinter Steven Solomon advances to 400m semi-final

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – Australian sprinter Steven Solomon won his Olympic heat in the 400m, storming into the semifinals with a personal best time.


Solomon, 19, on Saturday stopped the clock at 45.18 seconds, beating his previous best of 45.52 at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona three weeks ago.

Racing in his debut Olympics, Solomon – who captained the junior soccer team at the 2009 Maccabiah – defeated defending Olympic champion Lashawn Merritt, who pulled up with a hamstring injury. Solomon finished eighth fastest out of all the sprinters in the seven heats.

Solomon’s success seemed to vindicate the decision by Athletics Australia to select the rookie ahead of veteran John Steffensen, a black sprinter of South African descent who alleged racial discrimination after the decision was made public. It sparked a bitter race row in which Solomon was the unwitting man in the middle.

Ahead of Saturday’s race, Solomon’s father Michael urged caution amid the increasing hype surrounding his son.

“We need to keep things in perspective,” he told JTA via email. “Steven has been selected to run an individual 400m at the Olympic Games! This in itself is a massive achievement with only 54 runners in the world having this opportunity over the last four years. His progression to the semifinal will need a huge personal best effort.”

His son delivered, producing a personal best and earning a berth in the semifinal scheduled for Sunday night.

Keep up with JTA’s comprehensive coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.

Click to login and write a letter to the editor.