AFTER training alongside Aiden Harvey for the past three weeks, Rio Olympic Games shot put finalist Damien Birkinhead says it will be interesting to see how the 18-year-old from Kurri Kurri performs at the Hunter Track Classic on Saturday.
The man himself believes the dream training stint will have him primed to push for a Commonwealth Games B-qualifier in front of home supporters at Hunter Sports Centre at Glendale.
Birkinhead, the Australian record-holder, already has 19 throws since August over the A-qualifying mark for Gold Coast 2018, making him a headline act at the Hunter Track Classic.
But Birkinhead believed the battle for a potential second spot in the men’s shot put was the one to watch.
“Aiden Harvey is in great form at the moment, and it will be interesting to see how he goes,” Birkinhead told Athletics Australia.
“It’s exciting for the sport of shot put to see them come up. My training partner, Matt Cowie, is trying to make the Commonwealth Games as well so it’s all happening.”
Harvey has a personal best of 17.3 metres and needs to hit 18.1m in meets over the next four weeks to record a B-qualifier, which may be enough to earn a call-up for April’s Games.
He returned to the Hunter on Thursday from a training period in Melbourne full of confidence.
“I’ve had some good training sessions lately,” Harvey said. “I had three weeks with Damien, [coach] Scott Martin and his group in Melbourne and that was a really good experience. Every day turning up and training with someone of Damien’s calibre, you’ve got to be switched on.
“He’s helped me a bit with different things and obviously being an Olympic finalists, seeing what he does every day, that’s somewhere I want to be, so having that in my face every day is definitely not a negative.”
Harvey, who moved last year to attend Sydney University and study sports science, has already qualified for July’s world junior titles in Finland but said he will be disappointed if he doesn’t reach his Gold Coast goal.
“Me and Matt Cowie are at a similar level,” he said. “I beat him at nationals last year but he has a bigger PB than me, so we’ll be battling it out a bit and that adds a bit to the competition.
“I’m not too far off getting myself a Comm Games B-qualifier so hopefully if not at the Hunter Track Classic, at one of one of my next competitions I can knock one of those out and I can get selected for the team.”
Birkinhead will be one of several Olympians in action at Glendale.
Female runners Morgan Mitchell (400m), Jenny Blundell (1500m) and Linden Hall (5000m) will be ones to watch as they ramp up their preparations for the Australian Championships and nomination trial on the Gold Coast next month.
“The Hunter Track Classic is the one I’m targeting as my one competition before nationals,” Blundell told Athletics Australia.
The meeting starts at 5pm. Tickets are available at the gate.
Blundell said it was “just about keeping it simple” at Glendale.
“I haven’t been on any training camps, I’ve just stayed in Sydney.
“The plan is to run as quick as I can – if I can pop out a quick one just before or at nationals that’s an added bonus. Ideally, I’d like to be running those times prior to April anyway.”
In the men’s 1500m, 2017 world championship representative Morgan McDonald takes on James Hansen (TAS) and Jack Stapleton (NSW).
Hall’s battle with Emily Brichacek (ACT) and Melissa Duncan (Vic) in the 5000m should be another highlight.
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