Olympian hopes Hunter win will be springboard to Rio gold

Long leap ... Mitchell Watt is looking to Rio.
Long leap ... Mitchell Watt is looking to Rio.

LONDON Olympics silver medallist Mitchell Watt hopes Saturday night's Hunter Track Classic in Newcastle can be the springboard that launches his campaign for gold in Rio de Janeiro.

Competing for the first time since his heroics last August, the 24-year-old Queenslander won the men's long jump shoot-out open event with a leap of 7.54 metres, 16 centimetres ahead of Canberra rookie Angus Gould.

It was well short of the 8.16m that earned him second place in London, but Watt was easing himself back into action and aptly used a shortened run-up of 10m.

''The plan was for 7.50m and I jumped 7.54m off half my normal run-up,'' Watt said.

''I wouldn't normally compete this early, but they were keen to have me down and it was good. I got what I wanted out of the meet. Training has been getting a bit monotonous so it was nice to break it up a bit.

''I ticked all the boxes.''

Watt started convincingly with a jump of 7.22m, then fouled in round two before posting his winning leap of 7.54m and finishing with 7.46m.

Watt said his performance at Hunter Sports Centre indicated he had improved since his breakout 2012 season, when he established himself as the world's second-best long-jumper behind Great Britain's Greg Rutherford.

''Off that run-up, it's pretty close to my best,'' he said. ''Certainly it's better than anything I did off that run-up in 2012, so I'm probably ahead of where I was last year.''

The season-opening meeting of Athletics Australia's 2013 national series was Watt's first step on the road to Rio in 2016.

''It's 3½ years away, but it doesn't seem that long ago we were talking about Beijing and London,'' he said. ''It comes around pretty quickly. We've got two world championships between now and then … but certainly Rio is the long-term goal and everything we do between now and then is aimed at that.''

By 2016, Watt believes he will be ready to go one better than he did in London. ''I'm only 24 at the moment, and I think a lot of track-and-field people don't park until their late 20s,'' he said. ''I'll be 28 in Rio, so that's definitely the goal.

''I've got a silver at worlds, and a silver at the Olympics and I've definitely, definitely got it [a gold medal] in me.''

Watt was one of three London Olympians to win their events at Glendale.

Wollongong's Ryan Gregson claimed the 800m title in 1 minute 49.08 seconds, while sprinter Anthony Alozie blitzed the field to win the 100m in 10.66.

A fourth London Games representative, Tim Leathart, withdrew on Saturday afternoon from the 100m on his physiotherapist's advice.

Eleebana's two-time Olympian Benn Harradine was unable to compete after recent knee surgery, but in his absence the discus was won by another Novocastrian, 20-year-old Liam Speers, with a throw of 51.43m.

Georgetown heptathlete Sophie Stanwell posted a personal best to win the women's 200m, while Sydney 19-year-old Nicholas Hough reaffirmed his potential with wins in the men's 200m sprint and 110m hurdles.

Newcastle's Christie Dawes, a five-time Paralympian, finished second in the wheelchair team pursuit race.

Northern Ireland's Paul Robinson won the 1500m in 3:42.54.

This story Olympian hopes Hunter win will be springboard to Rio gold first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.