Stewart McSweyn and the Australian athletic community’s interest in the 1500 metres started in earnest on July 12th, 2019.
Progressing through the global ranks at a rapid rate of knots, McSweyn lined up on a balmy Monaco evening and piloted himself into the stratosphere. A run of 3:31.81 matched to the hundredth a month later in Paris.
The questions began in earnest – could he?
Roughly 4000 kilometres from McSweyn’s first run under 3:32.00, the Persian Gulf city of Doha provided an answer.
With the somewhat bizarre 2020 season providing McSweyn a limited set of opportunities, the 25-year old made hay whilst the proverbial sun shone. A season of world-class performances with one commonality – intent.
A brief wave on the start line and a nod, McSweyn showed zero hesitation at the Doha Sports Club.
Commentator Steve Cram profiled McSweyn best in the first 200 metres, “He just gives it a go, doesn’t he? He doesn’t care about ‘will I be able to stay with it or not?’ – he knows he’s in great shape… and already he’s after the pacemakers!”
McSweyn gapped the field immediately, latching onto a pair of pacemakers. A tick under 1:52 through 800m, the stage was set.
With a 25 metre lead on the pack, something relatively foreign to Diamond League 1500m fields, McSweyn became aware of an issue that would require immediate action – Brimin Kiprono was slowing, ever so slightly. Intermediate pacing splits are an art of sorts for keen-eyed middle distance observers, whilst the first lap had been appropriately swift, the split at 800m sufficient, arriving at 800m with a lap in the region of 57 seconds was slowing McSweyn’s momentum.
An affable individual, McSweyn tends to endear himself to spectators around the globe through the sheer application of force. Australian’s sat up in the early hours of the morning were about to witness a young man erase any ‘what if?’ factor over the final 500m.
At 1000m McSweyn started to peek around the shoulder of Kiprono, a signal to distance runners globally that things needed to get a wriggle on. Cram confirmed what many suspected, “the pace has dropped a bit, and he knows” – as McSweyn hit 1200m in 2:49.14. A 57.54 third lap triggering the commentators curse: “He’s going to have to find a cracking last 300 metres to get close to that (record)!”
In the ensuing 41.37 seconds, McSweyn grit his teeth, a lone figure storming down the home straight. A winning margin of 2.46 seconds, a 10-year old national record rewritten – McSweyn added a fourth national record to his collection. The St Stephen’s Harriers member now holds Australian records at 1500m indoors, 1500m outdoors, 3000m and 10,000m.
McSweyn admitted in the mixed zone post-race that he “hadn’t been in the best shape coming into the race” but was delighted to win.
“I just wanted to race again considering how this season has been. It was a very competitive race, but I executed my plan quite well, and I maintained the pace. I intend to go back to Australia and take a short break after this before resuming training again. My target is next year’s Olympics, and I’ll have to be in the best of shape for it. Tonight, I will just enjoy the moment by having a nice dinner to celebrate the win. I am happy to be heading home with a win in Doha.”
McSweyn’s second national record in nine days, the first Australian under 3:31.00, the fifth fastest 1500m performance in 2020, elevating him to 46th on the all-time list.