GLASGOW: Melissa Breen did it on a day this year. She did not do it on the day this year, not on the day that mattered.
These are statements of fact not opinion that summarise Mel Breen’s year. They are the words of keen, emotional yet dispassionate, self-analysis of Australia’s fastest woman.
They are the words that encapsulate both sides of a polarised argument about Melissa Breen the woman able to run quicker than any Australia has produced yet a woman still to produce her best when it matters.
Breen failed to make the final of the 100m at the Commonwealth Games after running a disappointing fifth in a time of 11.45s in her semi final.
“I am disappointed not to make that final and I am disappointed that I didn’t run 11.1 but you have to do it on the day. I have done it on a day this year, but that day was in February not in July,” Breen said.
She added: “It’s not like when you go out on the track you don’t try and unfortunately it wasn’t enough again but I felt bloody awesome in my warm up too but that’s all I had tonight unfortunately.”
Breen was unbacked financially by her own sport when she broke the national record in February. So when she broke the record others – or other, philanthropist Susan Alberti – stepped in to fill Athletics Australia’s financial breach with a cheque.
Breen’s emotion at missing the final was all the more acute for the fact she felt she had let down the likes of Alberi who had supported her.
“It is just frustrating for the people that believed in me and hopefully they are proud of me regardless but I am really sorry that I didn’t get to make the final,” she said.
On paper things could not have been better. She had the record, a preparation incomparable to her last few championships, and a kind semi-final field. Breen was the third quickest woman on paper in her semi final. On paper she had run 11.11 and could do so again.
On paper Michelle-Lee Ahye would win. But Ahye pulled out late, a move while upsetting for those on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, was not so upsetting for those riding seven other runners’ hopes of making the final.
Breen started reasonably, though not as strongly as Sunday night, and was reasonably placed through the middle stages but she was not looking strong and proud and commanding. She looked beaten and battling. With five metres to go she was in third. At the line she was fifth.
Her time of 11.45s was about .3 of a second outside of the minimum she would have expected of herself. Knowing it would take a run in the 11.2’s, an 11.3’s run would have been ok, but an 11.45 run was well, disappointing and insufficient.
In London she didn’t make it out of the heats after running 11.34s, in Moscow last year at the world championships she didn’t advance after running 11.47s.
This should have been different. She had not had to chase times or qualification to the last minute like London. She was not sick like last year. She ran well in warm up, but not in the race that mattered.
Ultimately she finished 11th, missing the final by three spots. The final five metres of her race when she was swamped and slid from third to fifth proved telling.
“I went to chase mode (in the latter stages) to be honest, I don’t remember much of the race but I probably just panicked a bit. I thought I got out alright but I went nowhere. It is amazing how much it can hurt,” she said.
“I really thought after my warm up tonight there was something coming but s**t happens.”
Breen, unfunded in meaningful terms by her sporting body partly because she had previously failed to deliver when it matter in a championship, has thus created a conundrum for Athletics Australia.
Easily AA could take the performance as validation of their view of her prospects on the world scale, congratulate themselves for their cynicism and jettison her as an under-performer.
Or they could view her as a 23-year-old who is faster than any Australian woman ever and spend two years before Rio working out how to make sure her best day is on the day that matters.