29 December 2017
Ian Dewhurst has not run a 400m hurdles personal best for nearly four years, but now a wiser and more mature athlete, he is set for an inspired season which we hope will incorporate success at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. His unfolding story this summer will validate his patience, sacrifice and growing professionalism over the last few years.
Popular member of the senior national team since 2013, Ian Dewhurst (SYU), initially started in little athletics doing all events, under Penrith-based coach Marilyn Pearson. He represented NSW in his teens in race walking, but within a few years was a leading Australian junior 400m hurdler. At 19 he ran 52.71 and within 18 months was down to 51.05 in his senior years. The breakthrough came in 2013 when he ran four personal bests over seven weeks during summer, closing the season with silver at the nationals with his first sub-50 time of 49.89. Internationally in 2013 he won bronze at the University Games. The next summer 2014 he won the national title in a PB of 49.52, moving him to number 11 in Australian history. Then in July he ran 50.45 and was run out of the 400m hurdles heats at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
“Unfortunately, I under-performed there and was very disappointed with the result,” Dewhurst said recently.
Dewhurst didn’t compete in 2015 and after injuring himself in his first summer race in 2016, he was forced to made a late attempt to qualify for the Olympic team with a series of races mid-year in Europe where he just fell short in his last race, where he clocked a very credible 49.76 in July 2016.
“I had a bit of time off and reflected on a few things. Since then I have been training a little bit smarter and bit more diligent with recovery and those one-percenters. It is not all about getting out on the track and smashing yourself. When you are young and progressing every year, you don’t even need to try, and you run PBs and it is easy to take that for granted, whereas now I’m a little bit older you have to be smarter and switched on. My warmup has changed and my recovery too. With my gym and strength work, which I write myself, I’ve been able to tailor it to what I feel.”
The year of 2017 was a year of change for Dewhurst.
“The most recent year was a tricky one, I moved to Perth in January 2017, just before that I had glandular fever which ruled out the start of the 2016/17 season. Then I had a problem with the meniscus in my knee and was having trouble doing more than a couple of sessions each week then just before the Canberra Grand Prix (March 2017) I pulled by groin, so I didn’t run there. I only raced three times in the season and still managed to pull together a nice race at nationals.”
His Australian Championships winning time was 49.77 after just clocking 50.75 and 50.61 in the preceding weeks. Would he chase a qualifying time for the London 2017 World Championships?
“It was tempting to go overseas and push for worlds, but I really wanted to go back and get a good base and consolidate and build and make sure everything was right for this year.”
Was it the best plan?
“It was a good decision,” he noted late last month.
“Reflecting back on all the time I have spent training for the 400m hurdles over the past 12 months, it has been the best I have ever had.”
After he opened his 2017/18 summer with a PB 200m time of 21.86 in November, he made an astonishing season debut over the 400m hurdles in Brisbane on December 16, winning over a strong field in 49.83.
“It was by far my fastest opener. Last year was 50.7 so it was a second faster. I think I won nationals in 49.77 and today was 49.83. It shocked me a little bit. I knew I was in good shape, but probably didn’t think I was going to run that quick, I thought maybe a low 50 was on the cards, but it is very exciting and satisfying to run that.”
Just how quick could he run this summer?
“I’ve had this chat with a few people recently and we feel as an athlete I’m capable of going around 49.0 whether or not I can dip under would be awesome to think I could. So, I think 49 low or 49.0 is definitely on the cards. A target is ticking off that A qualifier (49.35) in the next few races, then see what happens.”
What does this all mean in terms of the Commonwealth Games potential?
The last Australian to break 49 seconds was eight years ago and only three have ever run sub-49 seconds. At the Glasgow Commonwealth Games only the medallists broke 49 seconds and 49.00 would rank seventh in the Commonwealth in 2017.
David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall for Athletics NSW
Image: Ian Dewhurst in the white singlet of Sydney University (image courtesy of David Tarbotton)