Croydon Harrier Martyn Rooney proved a point today, when the British athletics team captain stormed to a lifetime best performance in the 400 metres heats on the second day of the world championships in Beijing.
Rooney raced to 44.45sec for fourth place in the hotly contested second heat. Although outside the first three places in his race, the Briton’s was the sixth fastest time of the day and saw the man from Thornton Heath progress to the semi-finals as one of the fastest losers.
Rooney’s previous personal best had been set the last time he raced in the Bird’s Nest Stadium – in the 2008 Olympic Games. He called the Bird’s Nest track his “Chinese magic carpet” with good reason: a total of 18 men ran sub-45sec in this morning’s heats.
Yet Rooney, the European champion, was very nearly was denied the opportunity to race at these world championships.
Despite being named as team captain, 28-year-old Rooney had to go to appeal to secure a place in the individual 400 metres.
“It’s not about proving others wrong,” he said before his first-round race. “It’s about proving I was right.”
Rooney’s performance today moves him to fourth on the British all-time list, just 0.08sec outside the national record that has stood to Iwan Thomas since 1997.
Rooney’s run required tremendous judgement as well as speed and stamina, as ahead of him, Saudi Arabia’s Yousef Masrahi was blitzing his way to an Asian record 43.93 and Rusheen McDonald was running a Jamaican national record 43.93.
Rooney is in China while his partner, Kate Dennison, the international pole vaulter, is at home in the Midlands expecting the birth of the couple’s first child in the next day or so.
“I have a baby to feed, so I have to start running fast,” a delighted Rooney said after his race.
“Stay calm, Kate,” he told the BBC as he left the stadium for his warm down.
Rooney plans to stay in China for the duration of the championships, despite the impending occasion at home. “It is very tough to come out here anyway and for that whole extra experience, it wasn’t ideal. Now that I am here, I have one job to do and that’s run well.
“If everyone is healthy at home, then brilliant. But then if things aren’t going so well then it is the same for every family – you’ve got to look after your family.
“I know people have got an idea about where I am going to finish or how I am going to perform, so I am looking forward to proving some people wrong. Or proving myself right, more to the point.”
James Desaolu, the other Croydon Harrier in the Great Britain team at the Beijing world championships, had a less successful outing in his 100 metres heat, his 10.13sec not good enough to see him through to today’s semi-finals alongside the likes of Usain Bolt and Justin Gatlin.
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