Moments after becoming the Australia’s fastest-ever woman, Melissa Breen tongue-in-cheek thanked Athletics Australia for cutting her funding and “hardening her up”.
The 23-year-old Breen broke Melinda Gainsford-Taylor’s 20-year-old national 100m record when she clocked 11.11 seconds in her heat at the ACT championships in Canberra on Sunday.
Gainsford-Taylor tweeted her congratulations soon after news broke of that Breen had bettered her by one hundredth of a second.
@Melissa_Breen Congratulations Mel for breaking the record. I am really proud of you.
— Mel Gainsford Taylor (@MelGTaylor) February 9, 2014
Breen then capped off a banner day before hometown supporters at the AIS track by beating Olympic 100m hurdles champion Sally Pearson to win the final, clocking 11.15 to runner-up Pearson’s 11.27.
It was the first time Breen had beaten Pearson in 30 head to head clashes. Her two times were a huge improvement on the personal best of 11.25 that she set last March.
“I just smashed it,” she said. “I’m the fastest Australian ever, that’s just insane. I’m so proud to do it on my home track in front of my friends and family.”
Breen’s road to national record holder has been a rocky one. Athletics Australia last year cut her funding after deeming she had not shown enough improvement to suggest she would make the final at either the next two world championships or the 2016 Olympic Games.
“When that decision came to fruition I honestly didn’t train for a week, it messed with me massively,” said Breen.
“For your own federation to give you so little faith, it made me question everything. But it did harden me up, and sometimes it’s fun to prove people wrong.”
Breen said she “absolutely” believes she can break the 11-second barrier by the year’s end, and hopes her continued improvement will sway Athletics Australia to send funding back her way.
“Running under 11 seconds is more than possible in the next year, it’s obviously very early in the season,” Breen said.
“I hope they change their decision, but if they don’t it’s their loss.
“But right now, I’m not focused on (the funding), it’s just about seeing everyone that’s come to support me.”
Breen and Pearson were neck and neck at the 50m mark before the new Australian record holder edged out in front.
“I was actually more nervous for the heat, because when I got to the final I was like ‘I’m the Australian record holder, I’ve got this’,” she said.
“I just can’t wait to have a little dance to myself and just scream. I’m immensely happy.”