Athletics body slammed as Aussies flock to rebel event

Athletics body slammed as Aussies flock to rebel event

An Olympic javelin thrower has slammed Athletics Australia as she prepares to back a Sydney businessman’s rebel event aiming to turbocharge the sport amid claims of neglect.

Australian record holder Kathryn Mitchell, who’s hoping to become a four-time Olympian in Paris this year, has accused Athletics Australia of doing a slack job as she gets ready to hurl javelins on Sunday.

John Crandell, a 32-year-old businessman and the president of Wests Track and Field, is set to run the Wayne Crandell Memorial Athletics Festival at Wyatt Park in Sydney’s west.

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He’s on a mission to earn silver World Athletics status for the Auburn meet by next year and turn it into an event that, entertainment-wise, has shades of the Diamond League and T20 cricket.

If Crandell’s vision comes to fruition, he expects it to be so spectacular that it will “snap necks” at Athletics Australia.

World Athletics Championships bronze medallist Mackenzie Little will compete against Mitchell on Sunday, eager to bank another domestic meet before contesting the Australian Track and Field Championships, taking place in Adelaide in April.

“It’s disappointing the way we are promoted,” Mitchell told Wide World of Sports.

“Obviously in women’s javelin we’ve got great depth at the moment and have had for the last few generations, really, and that’s purely coincidence. We’ve got no system in Australia that’s designed to build up these events.

“They’re conversations that all athletes and coaches in Australia have behind the scenes and I know that it is a frustration of field athletes that we don’t get the promotion that maybe we deserve. They’re not just my thoughts; they’re the thoughts of a lot of athletes in the game.

“I think the problem is that Athletics Australia have their favourite athletes who they like to promote and publicise, and they stick with those and nothing much happens outside of that as far as athlete promotion … My preference is that it’s not just the promotion of the same handful of people all the time and it’s about getting more variety.”

Of the eight meets scheduled for the 2023-24 Athletics Australia summer series, only one features women’s javelin.

Mitchell could reach the 64-metre Paris 2024 qualifying benchmark on Sunday, but it wouldn’t count as an Olympic qualifier because the event is not recognised by World Athletics.

If the Wayne Crandell Memorial Athletics Festival does acquire silver status, athletes will be able to qualify for major championships and accrue world ranking points via the Sydney meet.

Crandell hopes that would entice world-class athletes to the meet from overseas.

“It’s a great vision and it’s a great starting point,” Mitchell said.

“Whether it gets to that level [silver status] by next year is maybe questionable, but it’s a start and that’s what you need … It could be an event where we bring a lot of international athletes out specifically for it. The opportunities are endless.”

The event will have to move away from Wyatt Park if it’s to become a silver meet. Sydney Olympic Park and Blacktown International Sports Park are among the options Crandell is weighing up.

“It’s not just going to turn heads — it’s going to snap necks when you’re talking high up at Athletics Australia,” Crandell told Wide World of Sports as he pictured his vision coming to life.

“[They’ll be thinking], ‘We didn’t really do enough to help these javelin athletes’.

“We might start to see change happen in the sport … Athletics Australia isn’t doing enough and something needs to change.

“I would love to make it a mixture between a mini Diamond League and T20 cricket atmosphere.”

Athletics Australia defended itself in a statement provided to Wide World of Sports.

“Australia has had global success both on the track and field in recent years, not just because of the talent of our athletes, but because of the work done behind the scenes across all event groups and with a number of stakeholders,” Athletics Australia said in the statement.

“Some initiatives include seeking out multi-million dollar investments for the new National Throws Centre and also the establishment of Event Group Advisory Panels for Track and Field groups, which help to shape the programs, competition and coaching opportunities, with the best interest of the athletes and the sport in mind.

“We promote and celebrate all our athletes and their successes, including all of our recent field medallists at the World Athletics Championships.”

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