John Salvado / AAP News
Fit and fast again in the nick of time, Stewart McSweyn is among four legitimate medal shots on what could be Australia’s greatest-ever day at a world athletics championships.
McSweyn will be involved in a stacked men’s 1500m final on Tuesday (Wednesday AEST) also featuring the great Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen.
Joining the Tasmanian on centre stage in green and gold at Hayward Field will be Matthew Denny, who is determined to go at least one better than his fourth-place finish in the Tokyo Olympics discus final, and high jump superstars Eleanor Patterson and Nicola Olyslagers (nee McDermott).
Australia has never won more than two medals on any single day in the history of the world championships.
Only a matter of weeks ago, McSweyn was close to pulling the pin on his 2022 campaign after an adverse reaction to a COVID-19 booster led to him being diagnosed with pericarditis or inflammation around the heart.
“My recovery was poor, so even with easy training I would feel pretty fatigued,” McSweyn told AAP.
“Normally in the 1500, you start getting tired on that last lap.
“But with this, I’d get to the first lap and feel like I’d run a whole race and feel exhausted like I was at max intensity.”
The turning point came at the Stockholm Diamond League meet on June 30, with McSweyn returning to form in the 3000m.
Suddenly, the world titles in Eugene and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games were right back on the agenda.
McSweyn has looked impressive in the opening round and semi-finals in Eugene.
As the reigning Olympic champion, Ingebrigtsen is the clear gold-medal favourite – as he is every time he steps onto the track.
But McSweyn – who was seventh in the Tokyo final last year – has no intention of just making up the numbers.
“Obviously it’s a crazy good field,” McSweyn said.
“Jakob is an unbelievable athlete and the African guys are really strong.
“But you still have to go in thinking you can win the race.”
Denny is also not lacking in self-belief – and rightly so.
He finished fourth in the qualifying round on Sunday with 66.98m – just 9cm shy of his personal best – with the promise of better to come.
“I’m not here to get fourth again,” the 26-year-old said.
“I’m here to take my standard to a new level and if I do what I believe I can then the sky is the limit.”
The women’s high jump shapes as a wide-open event in the enforced absence of Russia’s three-time world champ and Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Mariya Lasitskene.
Patterson, the 2022 world indoor silver medallist, and Olyslagers, the Tokyo Olympics runner-up, both boast the credentials to challenge for top spot on the podium.