Steven Solomon, 19, won his 400-meter heat in a personal best time of 45.18 seconds on Saturday, to move smoothly into Monday’s semi-finals at the London Olympics.
“I am really, really happy,” Solomon said after the race, claiming he was in the best form of his life. “I was able to execute my race plan as I wanted and not get caught up with emotions.”
Solomon, who captained Australia’s junior soccer team at the 2009 Maccabiah Games, is Australia’s only Jewish Olympian. He is also participating in the 4×400-meter relay.
Last year he won the 400 meters at the Australian National Championship and this year, despite suffering a hamstring injury, he managed to defend his national title.
Just three weeks ago, Solomon won the bronze medal at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona in a personal best 45.52 seconds. He also posted a blistering sub-45-second relay leg that helped the Australians qualify for London.
His success in Spain prompted Athletics Australia officials to select him over the veteran John Steffensen, an Olympic medalist who had defeated Solomon at the Olympic trials earlier this year, although neither managed an automatic qualifying time. The decision sparked a racial conflict in which Solomon was unwittingly in the middle.
Steffensen, 29, a black man of South African descent, threatened to boycott the Games in disgust, alleging discrimination by officials. Steffensen, who was selected to race on the 4×400-meter relay team that includes Solomon, backed down on his boycott threat.