Hoare makes eagerly-awaited return in 1500m

After a long stint on the sidelines, Commonwealth 1500m champ Olli Hoare comes out of the shadows this weekend as the deepest crop of middle-distance runners in Australian history set their sights on the Paris Olympics.

Hoare's last race was at the Oslo Diamond League meet in June 2023, when he smashed the Australian 1500m record and then immediately shut down his season due to hernia and pelvis injuries.

"After that my coach Dathan Ritzenheim said to me 'do you want to medal (at the world championships) in Budapest or do you want to medal in Paris'," the 27-year-old told AAP.

"I said 'Paris' so we agreed I would take the time needed to recover from the injury and build up healthier, better and stronger for a big 2024."

Hoare makes his eagerly-awaited return at the Australian championships in Adelaide, where much of the attention will be on the stacked men's and women's 800m and 1500m races.

No country can enter more than three athletes in any one event at the Paris Games, with Hoare up against the likes of teen star Cameron Myers, Olympic finalist Stewart McSweyn, Adam Spencer and Jesse Hunt in the metric mile.

"I'm feeling pretty amazing," said Hoare.

"I've been sitting in the corner, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for the opportunity after 10 months of working in the shadows with my team and my coach.

"I'm ready for a big year and excited to debut my season at the national championships here in Australia against such a great field."

With Olympic spots on the line, competition will be just as fierce in the women's middle-distance events in Adelaide.

Teen sensation Claudia Hollingsworth and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Abbey Caldwell will both prioritise the 800m over the 1500m, and will square off against national record holder Catriona Bisset and Bendera Oboya.

All four have already bettered the tough Olympic qualifying standard of one minute 59.30 seconds.

Bendere Oboya
Training partners Bendera Oboya and Claudia Hollingsworth will square off in the 800m.

Hollingsworth and Oboya are both coached by 2005 world championships 5000m bronze medallist Craig Mottram, himself a trailblazer for a previous generation of Australian runners.

But Mottram readily acknowledges the nation has never before enjoyed such a deep pool of elite middle-distance talent.

"We have a number of really good coaches in our country working well together to provide good training, while good team environments have a lot to do with it as well," he told AAP.

"And it's also luck.

"We can sit here and say it's all about the training and the coaching, but if you don't have the stock you can't do an awful lot with it.

"These runners are genetically gifted and that's the real reason - we're in a lucky period of time with very good athletes."

All five of Australia's in-stadium medallists from last year's world championships in Budapest will be on show in Adelaide.

The 2022 high jump world champ Eleanor Patterson will square off against recently-crowned world indoor gold medallist Nicola Olyslagers for one of the rare times on home soil.

Eleanor Patterson
Eleanor Patterson and Nicola Olyslagers were both on the podium at the 2023 world championships.

Reigning world champion Nina Kennedy and dual Commonwealth Games champ and 2023 world championships bronze medallist Kurtis Marschall are set  to dominate their respective pole vault competitions.

But Budapest bronze medallist Mackenzie Little will face much stiffer competition in the women's javelin against two-time world champ Kelsey-Lee Barber and evergreen Kathryn Mitchell.

The first batch of athletes who have met all the selection criteria will be named on the Australian Olympic squad on Sunday, with others to be added up to the cut-off on June 30.

If both 4x100m relay teams make the cut, the Australian track and field squad in Paris is likely to number roughly 70 athletes, many of them in the middle-distance events.

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