THE saying ‘there’s no place like home’ holds particular truth for Australian 400m runner and 2012 Olympic Games finalist Steven Solomon.
The 25-year-old made the big decision to move to Sydney’s eastern suburbs last month after six years of studying, training and competing in the USA at Stanford and Duke universities, and told The AJN this week he couldn’t be happier to be back at this point in his athletics career.
“It’s so nice to be back home among family and friends,” Solomon, who completed a masters degree in management, said.
“My decision to come back here was based upon my athletics, so I sat down and looked at things objectively.
“In the past it was all about the best place for me to train, and that was the US, with its world-class [college sport] facilities that certainly made it a bit easier to train, with so many modalities and very experienced coaches.
“I learnt so much from [athletics coach] Mark Mueller at Duke, and I was super impressed with how quickly we established trust from the get-go.
“But the question I asked myself this time was where am I when I’m at my best – and the answer involved more than just facilities and coaches – and the answer was home.”
Solomon’s final season with Duke was outstanding. He broke the university’s all-time men’s records for the 400m (indoor and outdoor), 600m (indoor), set a new ACC and Australian 400m indoor record [45.44 seconds] won gold and bronze medals at the ACC Championships, and came ninth in the NCAA outdoor championships when posting a season-best and Duke record time of 45.30 seconds.
It was also a memorable year for Solomon in the green and gold, posting a heats time of 45.39 seconds in the men’s 400m at the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, qualifying him for the final where he finished seventh in 45.64 seconds.
He also made the final of the men’s 400m relay at the Games, but unfortunately the team was disqualified after a mishap in the last baton interchange.
His hectic year on the track was completed by being a part of the Asia-Pacific team that came third in the 400m mixed relay at the Continental Cup in Ostrava, Czech Republic in September.
After a well-deserved three week break upon his return, Solomon has resumed light training – including early morning runs on Bondi Beach – started his first post-graduation job at Uber’s head office in Sydney, and hired two-time Olympian Penny Gillies as his new coach.
“It was a big, long year for me – I was basically running the whole time from February to September – and it was capped off with making the final of a Commonwealth Games in front of a home crowd,” Solomon said.
“So I’ve just kind of eased back into training now after a few weeks off, and will now step things up as I prepare for upcoming events like the national championships in Sydney in April and then aim for a place in the world championships in Doha in October . . . and yes, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo is in the back of my mind too.”
Coming back home has also given Solomon a new lease of athletics life.
“I’m coming up to eight years of professional running now, and I’m definitely enjoying it as ever,” he said.
“You find different ways to keep focused and motivated.
“And, having been based in the US for so many years, it’s also nice to be back in Australia to see the next crop of young Aussie athletes coming through.”