7:28.02: McSweyn’s historical night in Rome

Whilst the 2020 season has been more difficult to predict than most, one constant has remained – Stewart McSweyn.

Veteran British commentators Steve Cram and Tim Hutchings mentioned McSweyn early on, as the 3000m began in the Stadio Olimpico. Both commentators remarked on McSweyn taking on races, showing serious confidence and an unflappable demeanour.

Competitive amongst global heavyweights once again, McSweyn obliterated his previous personal best of 7:34.79, the 17th fastest 3000m performance in global history. Eclipsing Craig Mottram’s 2006 performance, a 7:32.19 run defeating Kenenisa Bekele at the World Cup.

7:28.02, a new national and area record, McSweyn’s national record collection grows to three (indoor 1500m, 3000m, 10,000m).

Hutching and Cram’s early comments on McSweyn’s 1500m showing in Zagreb were pertinent. A 3:32.17 clocking, the seventh fastest Australian 1500m performance, cause for celebration for most. McSweyn couldn’t help but look a touch frustrated in crossing the line. With the pace slowing through 800m, McSweyn blasted out a determined third lap, covering the circuit in 55 seconds before closing the final 300m in 41 seconds – indicative of the devastating range the 25-year old has in his arsenal.

Hutching’s detailed a discussion with McSweyn earlier in the day, where the St. Stephen’s Harrier proclaimed he felt “absolutely great”. Tucking in early on behind pacemaker and training partner Sean Tobin, McSweyn’s approach signalled this visit to Rome was business related.

Commentators tend to be harsh on pacemakers, an often thankless task. However, the young Irishman Tobin earnt a commentary review of “absolutely perfect”. A rapid, seemingly obvious remark from Cram “it’s quick, very quick” – signalled two distance running subtleties:

  1. Cautious early excitement.
  2. A World and European champion in his heyday sensing the lineup of McSweyn, Jacob Kiplimo, and Jakob Ingebrigtsen were headed into the proverbial breach for something special.

With three laps to run, Tobin pulled off, his incredibly even work done for the night. Shouting encouragement as McSweyn was left alone at the front of the race, Kiplimo and Ingebrigsten queued up on his heels. Cram reiterated just how quick proceedings were, nervous laughter between both commentators heightening the tension.

Through 2000m in 4:59.47 – good for third on the Australian all-time list were it a 2000m race, for context. McSweyn turned the proverbial screws, peeling off a 59.83sec lap. A wary glance up to the big screen, taking note of Ingebrigtsen and Kiplimo, as McSweyn ran boldly into territory very few Australians are familiar with.

Ingebrigtsen rolled to the lead just prior to bell lap, Kiplimo following, McSweyn fighting to remain in contention. The clock ticking to 6:30 as McSweyn ran through the line – afforded a glimpse over the precipice, a national record under threat.

As the Ugandan and Norweigan 19-year old’s tussled for the win, McSweyn held tough. Kiplimo the winner in 7:26.64 – a national record and the fastest ever Diamond League 3000m performance, as Ingebrigtsen’s 7:27.05 fell just short of the European record.

Distance running is often a victim of hyperbole, McSweyn’s brave showing in Rome is anything but. Prior to the race, 30 men in history had broken 7:30.00. The Stadio Olimpico welcomed three new members to the sub-7:30 club, McSweyn now nestled amongst the sport’s very best.

The race is available for viewing here: