After racing into history in Italy Jessica Hull will be chasing more glory at the world championships, reports Louise Evans, Correspondent at Large.
Australia’s Jessica Hull ran into world championship medal contention on a cool, still night in Florence where the great Kenyan middle distance queen Faith Kipyegon set a breakthrough world record in a historic 1500m race.
Conditions were ideal at the Italian Golden Gala meeting on June 2 for Kipyegon, the 1500m dual Olympic and dual world champion, to become the first woman to run under the 3m50s barrier and set a new world record of 3m49.11s by almost a second.
What was also astonishing was the pace maintained by Hull, 26, and Britain’s Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Laura Muir, 30, who were the only two to break from the field after the first lap and bravely stay within coo-ee of Kipyegon’s flashing heels as she raced into history.
Muir was second in 3m57.09s, just under eight seconds behind. Hull’s eyes lit up when saw the clock as she crossed the line close behind Muir in third as she’d set a new Australian and Oceania record of 3m57.29s, breaking her own national mark set at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics by just over one and a half seconds. Fellow Australians Abbey Caldwell (4m01.34s) and Linden Hall (4m02.43s) were sixth and 10th respectively in Florence.
Such was the gravity of the metric mile event, Hull, Muir and the rest of the field embraced Kipyegon, 29, after the race in an excited heaving huddle as they all breathed in the history that had just been made.
With the Budapest World Championships set to start on August 19, Hull has shown she has the maturity and momentum to win a medal behind the all-conquering Kipyegon – who believes she can go faster than 3m49s in Hungary.
Hull’s gradual improvement on the international stage over the last few years to join the world top-four 1500m runners for the 2023 season so far has been impressive.
She ran in her first Olympic final at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, finishing 11th and setting a new Australian record in the semis of 3m58.81s. The following year she finished seventh in the 1500m finals at the 2022 Eugene World Championships.
She then broke through to win her first championship medal at the Bathurst World Cross Country in February, winning bronze in the mixed relay with team mates Commonwealth champion Oliver Hoare, 1500m record holder Stewart McSweyn and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Abbey Caldwell.
The Bathurst bronze medal had added meaning for Hull who is from Wollongong in NSW and who fell in love with running after winning a school cross country race. She started running with her father Simon, also a cross country runner and the 1986 under-16 national 1500m champion, who became her early coach.
Fast forward past her first Olympic and world championship finals to the race in Florence where Hull admitted the breath-breaking tempo of the world record pace was mentally intimidating. She had previously felt she had the physical ability to cope, but keeping her head where her feet had been the challenge.
Having survived and thrived in the euphoria of the Florence event, Hull now believes that like Kipyegon – she can go faster.
“That race has been in my legs for a few years now and it was a matter of maturing as an athlete, probably from the mental side of things,” Hull said after the race.
“Committing to a race that was going to go that quick shows some maturity and some big steps forward and I think we can go a little bit quicker because I was in no-mans land for a lot of it and I know that if I could stay connected, then maybe we could go a bit quicker,” Hull said.
The 2024 Paris Olympics are also looming in 14 months and while there’s a lot of base training, kilometres, weights, recovery and racing ahead, Hull is heading in the right direction, and at a cracking pace.
Louise Evans is an award-winning journalist who has worked around Australia and the world as a reporter, foreign correspondent, editor and media executive for media platforms including The Sydney Morning Herald (eight years), The Australian (11 years) and Australian Associated Press (six years in London, Beijing and Sydney).
A women sports’ pioneer, Louise was the first female sports journalist employed by The Sydney Morning Herald and the first female sports editor at The Australian. Louise went on to work at six Olympic Games, six Commonwealth Games and numerous world sporting championships and grand slam tennis events.
Louise is the Founding Editor of AAP FactCheck, the Creator of #WISPAA – Women in Sport Photo Action Awards and national touring Exhibition and the author and producer of the Passage to Pusan book, documentary and exhibition.
In 2019 she was awarded the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) Queen’s Honour for services to the media and sport and named an Australian Financial Review Top 100 Woman of Influence for services to the arts, culture and sport.
In 2020 she won a NSW Volunteer of the Year Award plus the NSW Government Community Service Award for her women-in-sport advocacy work.