Australian sprinter Jacob Despard believes the nation’s 4x100m men’s relay team can win gold at the upcoming Commonwealth Games.
Currently in England preparing for the biggest event of his life, the Tasmanian has told The Inner Sanctum that the national record of 38.17 is ‘going to go down’.
“The group of boys in the relay team are capable of breaking the Australian record, and we’re also a massive chance to win a gold medal,” he said.
“There’s never been, in the history of Australian athletics, this many blokes running this quick at the same time.”
Having won the prestigious Stawell Gift in 2018, Despard is adamant he’s in the best form and shape of his life after acclimatising to the foreign conditions.
“I raced four days after the international flight, which was a bit of a struggle. The body didn’t really like what I was doing.
“I’m back and feeling good again… ready to get back into some hard sessions before heading off to Birmingham.
“I don’t think I’ve ever run this fast, this consistently… My times this year have been so consistent and on the way down, it’s pretty unbelievable.”
Despard has spent time in Switzerland over the past fortnight, running a wind-assisted 10.14 in his last official race before the Games.
“One thing I’ve learnt about Switzerland is that it’s very windy. The tracks are quick and the people are nice over there. That was definitely somewhere in future years I’ll probably go back to and race again.”
The 25-year-old is coached by Sweden’s Rolf Ohman. Having teamed up just over two years ago, the pair’s geographical location combined with COVID chaos has meant they’ve actually never met in real life.
“Hats off to Rolf for keeping me running fast consistently for this long, not many people can do it,” Despard said.
“We’ve worked out how my body reacts to certain training and what I thrive off.”
Australia’s 4x100m relay team could also feature Olympic semi-finalist Rohan Browning, along with Despard’s fellow Tasmanian Jack Hale.
For a state with less than 600,000 people, and with the two having gone to the same school in Hobart (St. Virgil’s College), Despard understands the importance of having two Tasmanians on the international stage together.
“It’s unreal. 15 years ago, if you said to someone in Tasmanian sprinting ‘we’re going to have two guys representing Australia in the 4x100m soon’, you’d just get laughed at,” he said.
“It’s huge for the sport in Tassie. When you walk around the track, the young kids talking, you can see it’s really opened that ceiling that was once there.”
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COVID causes some disappointment
Unfortunately for Despard and other members of the Australian athletics team, they won’t receive the full Commonwealth Games experience in Birmingham.
Due to COVID and subsequent planning of the event, Despard won’t be in the athletes’ village to begin the Games. This means he’ll miss the experience of taking part in the opening ceremony.
“I don’t actually go into the village until the 2nd of August… so we miss the first few days,” he explained.
“The accommodation is all separated apparently. It’s very COVID safe which is understandable, but it’s a bit disappointing not to get that full experience.”
This is hardly a tourist trip for Despard, whose meticulous preparation has prevented him from too much sightseeing.
“I’ve just been trying to keep it low-key…I don’t want to be on my feet all the time walking around. Drive somewhere, a few quick photos and that’s it.
“I sleep a lot at the moment. Sprinting’s high on the central nervous system and there’s nothing better than sleep for that.”
Fortunately for Despard, he may get the opportunity to experience an opening ceremony in his own country. Earlier this year, Victoria was confirmed as the host state for the 2026 Commonwealth Games, an event Despard has ‘put into the goal book’.
“I would love to win an individual medal, in the 100m or 200m. What’s better than winning a medal at a major championships in your own country?” he said.
“I’ll be 28 or 29 then. I started elite sprinting relatively late so that could be around my peak. If I make it, I’ll have my whole family there and it’ll be pretty special.”
Despard is currently in Tunbridge for pre-camp, with the Australian men’s 4x100m relay team scheduled to begin competition on August 4.
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