Ella Nelson will face hometown hero Mel Breen in the Canberra Grand Prix at the AIS Track this weekend, as the Olympic star chases the 200m Australian record.
Nelson burst onto the international stage at the 2016 Rio Olympics with a blistering dash of 22.50 seconds in the 200m to almost earn a shock berth in the final.
The 22-year-old fell just 0.01 seconds short of becoming the first Australian since Cathy Freeman and Melinda Gainsford-Taylor to make the 200m Olympic final.
Nelson said she tries not to think about how close she came to the pinnacle of her sport and instead focuses on the positives of her breakout season.
“As much of an emotional stress as it was, I have nothing but good memories of the Olympics, it was the most fun I’ve ever had,” Nelson said.
“I really made a point to remember and enjoy every second because Matt Shirvington said us before the Games – ‘you’d think I’ve been to a lot of Olympics but I only went to one and because I assumed I’d go to several I didn’t get everything out of it that I would have liked’ – and that really resonated with me.”
The breakout performance earned Nelson worldwide praise, but the USA-based sprinter said once she’s out of her tights she is able to evade the public eye.
“Unless I’m wearing track gear I’m out of context so people don’t recognise me which is probably a good thing,” Nelson said.
Nelson said she has loved racing in Canberra since winning Pacific School Games gold back in 2008 and is looking forward to competing against Breen.
“We get along really well and push each other, Mel was super supportive in Rio and we’re always happy for each other when we do well, I’m excited to see what we can both do this weekend,” Nelson said.
Since a hamstring injury last April, Nelson has only raced outdoor at Rio and will make her return to the track in the capital on Saturday.
Nelson will compete in the 100m and 200m where she hopes to secure a personal best time and inch closer to Gainsford-Taylor’s Australian record of 22.23.
The Olympian credits her dramatic improvement last year to the ALTIS training program in Phoenix Arizona which she joined in October 2015.
“I was definitely progressing anyway but when went to Phoenix and started training with some of the world’s best coaches, that basically changed everything,” Nelson said.
Lauren Wells, Michelle Jenneke, Jack Hale and Tom Gamble will also run in Canberra, while Sally Pearson was a late scratching with the Olympic champion focusing on nationals in Sydney at the end of March.
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