If you don’t remember the nickname ‘Hale Storm’, you might recall a viral video of a schoolboy sprint sensation.
The year was 2014 — and a 16-year-old by the name of Jack Hale unleashed a 10.13-second 100m to conquer the Australian All Schools carnival.
The time wasn’t legal because the field in Adelaide was aided by a strong gust of wind, but a speedster from Tasmania had emerged as a great hope in Australian sprinting.
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The chorus of oohs and aahs raining down on Hale has since dwindled significantly, but Australia will get another glimpse of the mercurial talent when he lines up in the 4x100m relay at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Hale, now 24, is yet to don green and gold at a major championship as an individual athlete.
But if you thought he’d given up on realising the dream, think again.
“That’s what I’m here for … my only goal after this competition (the Commonwealth Games) is, ‘How do we get to the Paris Olympics in the best shape possible as an individual 100m runner?'” Hale told Wide World of Sports.
“It’s going to take a lot. I’ve had that experience now of just missing out on the Tokyo Olympics by a couple of spots, so the next couple of years are going to be critical.”
The schoolboy who finished second in the 2014 race blitzed by Hale was Rohan Browning — the larrikin with a flying mullet who snagged a spot in the Tokyo Olympics semi-finals and upstaged Yohan Blake on the way.
Hale’s quickest times of 2014, 2015 and 2016 topped those of Browning, and he still holds the under-18 national record — a 10.38 registered in Perth in 2015.
But in the years after Hale’s halcyon schoolboy days, the likes of Browning, Jake Doran and Trae Williams have outwrestled him for Australian representation.
As is the case in Birmingham, the only event Hale featured in at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast was the 4x100m relay.
“Many things happen in this sport,” Hale said.
“Things like injuries pop up.
“You’re not running at your best every season at the end of the day, so it’s about getting things right and being the most durable you can going forward with every year coming onto the scene.”
Hale produced the quickest Australian time of 2020, but Browning hit back with the top-12 times of 2021.
As Browning edged his personal best down to 10.01, the quickest time Hale could muster was a 10.21.
“I didn’t come back in 2021 in the best shape,” Hale said.
“I think those are the things I put it down to.
“I sort of rocked up in 2020, best shape of my life, sixth-fastest of all time and then with things cancelled (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) you obviously put things back into a training perspective trying to move forward, but things didn’t happen in 2021. I think it just piled up on that.
“I think going forward it’s about getting a good training block together and being as durable as I can.”
Hale registered a 10.12 in Perth in 2020, which would have met the qualifying standards of every Olympic Games before the Tokyo edition.
But the cut-off for the Tokyo Games was 10.05, which was met by Browning but no other Australian.
As Hale pursues an individual spot on Australia’s 2024 Paris Olympics team, he’s operating with the only mindset that cuts it.
“At the end of the day, 10.12 isn’t that great on a world stage … you’re shooting a bit low. You’ve got to really be around that 10.00-9.90 sort of range,” Hale said.
“I think me as an individual can do that. Look, in two years’ time, if I can’t be doing that, that’s not where I want to be at in this sport. It’ll be 10 years in 2024 since I started. If I can’t be making the Olympic team (as an individual) in that 10.00-9.90 shape I’m doing something wrong.”
Round one of the Commonwealth Games 4x100m relay event is scheduled for Saturday night (AEST) and the final Sunday night.
The Australian team consists of Hale, Browning, Doran, Joshua Azzopardi, Jacob Despard and Chris Mitrevski.
Hale says he’s “very impressed” with the heights Browning has reached and denies begrudging his sterling rise.
“There’s no envy in any way, shape or form in this situation,” Hale said.
“We’ve been great competitors for years now. I think going forward it’s going to be even better.
“If he can get himself up and about to run on the Australian circuit it’ll be great, and if I can get myself up to that sort of 10.00-10.10 shape it’s going to be some good racing.”
That racing, Hale hopes, will capture an individual berth for the Paris Olympics, as he looks to rediscover the mojo behind his schoolboy stardom.
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