Resilience has been a hallmark of Peter Boll’s extraordinary life and the Australian athlete will not let an injured ankle derail his Commonwealth Games dreams. The 28-year-old, whose family fled Sudan’s civil war when he was four, has dealt with the stress of competing against the best in a grueling event over the past decade.
A case in point is his fourth place finish at the Tokyo Olympics last year. Most recently, there was a deflating seventh place finish at the World Championships. On Tuesday, when he sprained his ankle in an 800m heat in Birmingham, Boll would have been forgiven for fearing the worst.
Instead he focused. He iced his ankle. Keep your feet up. Again iced the joints. And again. It was a professional approach to panic. He planned to fight despite the injury. But until Wednesday morning, he wasn’t sure he’d produced his best. Walking 800 meters on an ankle is painful, let alone walking. But Boll finished it brilliantly, clocking 1:47.01 to qualify fastest for Sunday’s final at Alexander Stadium.
“I rolled my ankle yesterday and was limping on the way back and today I’m completely fine, so big thanks to the Athletics Australia medical team,” he said. “I wasn’t playing basketball, I promise. I just rolled it onto the curb at the track. This is the first time this has happened. It was getting better at night and then in the morning, I was like, ‘Bam, I’m good to go.’
The ease with which they claim heat is proof of this. Boll overtook Kenya’s Cornelius Tuwai, who has a faster personal best than the Western Australian, before sending him cruising along for the first 550m.
“To be honest, I felt relieved and I was very happy about it,” he said. “It was great to come back from Worlds, because it was a disappointing final, so to come back here and be in amazing form and finally switch off like that is amazing.”
Meanwhile, five-time Paralympic gold medalist Evan O’Hanlon successfully defended the T37/38 100m title he claimed four years ago on the Gold Coast with a time of 11.23 seconds in the final.
O’Hanlon, who has retired from the track twice in his long and decorated career but returned with a bronze medal at the Tokyo Paralympics, hoped to add to his medal collection at the 2024 Games. “I want to keep running. . I know if I train at the same level I was before London and Rio I think I can win gold again in Paris,” he said.
Rohan Browning was disappointed after finishing sixth in the men’s 100m final with a time of 10.20 – 0.10 seconds short, which would have been enough to secure him silver in the final. Akani Simbine took silver in 10.13 behind winner Ferdinand Omanya.
“I’m not happy with it,” Browning said. “It was just an ugly, painful kind of race and it’s one of those tough nights. A month ago I saw myself in this final. I try to take every win and race in my stride but once you get here you want to be on that podium. What is it all about?
“I thought about packing it up after worlds and going back home and doing some training for next year and I’m glad I decided to stick around. I think one of the lessons I’ve learned is that persistence is more important than patience. You just have to keep trying things and keep doing them.
“Today I could have done a few things to get there but I think I was the best today. I need more training on my legs and I need a big winter off-season.”
And in the high jump, Brandon Starc battled through the pain barrier and narrowly missed out on defending his Commonwealth crown, but both men still won silver behind New Zealand’s Hamish Kerr after clearing 2.25m.
“It was tough. That was probably the hardest compression I’ve ever had,” Starc said. “I had to pull out of the world championships because of an injured heel, and throughout that competition, except for maybe the first jump, I was feeling every part of that injured heel.
“I was taking my shoe off, trying to get some relief, taping here and there but really I had to grit my teeth and jump out of it. I don’t know what it was, I don’t know if it was family or I just wanted something bad and I jumped through it and somehow I got a medal.”