Torrie Lewis: ‘If I can run 100m that fast, I can run a 200 way faster’ | Mike Hytner

    She may be Australia’s fastest woman ever over 100m, but the blue-ribband event is not a priority for Torrie Lewis as she seeks to qualify for the Paris Olympics later this year. It may seem counterintuitive, but to the 19-year-old it makes perfect sense.

    Given the choice, Lewis, whose profile has sky-rocketed since breaking the national 100m women’s record in January, would run the 200m instead, an event she has always considered herself to be more suited to.

    “I just think that I would probably be a bit more competitive in the Olympics at the 200,” she said at the Australian team’s uniform launch in Sydney earlier this week. “I’m obviously closer to qualifying in the 100m. I’m going to be happy with whatever, but if I can choose, I think I would run the 200.”

    The sprinting world sat up and took notice earlier this year when Lewis stormed to victory in the 100m at the ACT Open and Under-20 championships with a time of 11.10 seconds. It was the fastest ever recorded by an Australian woman, narrowly besting Melissa Breen’s previous benchmark of 11.11s as well as Raelene Boyle’s U20 record of 11.20 that had stood since 1968.

    “I’ve always thought I was better at the 200,” Lewis said. “So I was really surprised when I broke the 100m record. But it gives me a lot of confidence because I know that if I can run 100m that fast, I can run a 200 way faster. And I can hopefully get the record with a 200 as well one day.”

    Torrie Lewis has shot to prominence since breaking the national 100m record. Photograph: Matt Turner/AAP

    Melinda Gainsford-Taylor’s longstanding 200m benchmark of 22.23s has remained untouched since it was set in 1997. But Lewis is getting closer. She managed to lower her personal best to 22.94s – the first wind-legal sub-23s run of her career – on her way to defending the national title last weekend in Adelaide, and she holds hopes to further eat into that deficit.

    Lewis was a last-minute pull-out from the 100m in Adelaide – forgoing the chance to defend that title and try to repeat her sprint double of 12 months ago – to give her full attention to the 200m.

    Lewis’s focus will be on staying healthy amid a busy schedule before Paris. Photograph: Matt Turner/AAP

    She will run just one individual event if she qualifies for the Australian track and field team for the Games which begin on 26 July. Until then there is still much to be done and the coming months will be busy. Lewis is racing in China this weekend before travelling with the 4x100m relay team to Nassau in the Bahamas, where they will try to qualify for Paris.

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    After that, Lewis will choose which events to compete in to either meet the Olympic qualification time or raise her world ranking to a high enough level so she can receive a roll-down spot at the end of the qualification period. How she performs up until the end of June will inform which individual event she runs in Paris.

    “There’s a lot of international travel between now and then,” Lewis said. “So I’m just trying to focus on staying healthy to give me the best chance.”

    Born in Nottingham in the UK, Lewis moved to Australia at the age of six, and was a promising gymnast in those early years in Newcastle, New South Wales, before turning her full attention to the track. In 2020, she relocated to Queensland, where her sprint career really took off.

    Her rise to national prominence has been meteoric, but she says she has the tools to deal with the glare of the spotlight that has grown brighter in recent months, and will probably intensify the closer to Paris she gets.

    Lewis is counting on her experienced mentor to keep her grounded. Photograph: Matt Turner/AAP

    Such an explosion on to the scene might have made it hard for some young athletes to keep their feet on the ground, but Lewis has been able to call on the wealth of experience of one of Australia’s greatest Olympians, Dawn Fraser. The four-time Olympic swimming champion has been assigned by the Sport Australia Hall of Fame to mentor the sprinter.

    Despite the 67 years separating the pair, Lewis finds she can relate to Fraser, who knows a thing or two about preparing for an Olympics – and winning medals. Most importantly, Fraser is on hand to help her deal with the pressure that comes with expectation – and how to handle the media’s newfound interest in her.

    “She’s given me such good pieces of advice,” Lewis said. “She’s probably the most proud person I know. She’s done the most.

    “I just think the media is there because I’m fast and so I just need to focus on my training and keeping fast for it to still be there. And you have to try and stay grounded, remember why I was doing it the first place.”

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