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Teenager set for Paris after becoming Australia's third fastest ever 800m runner

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Tenacity, courage, passion and persistence has delivered in the form of Olympic selection for Sunshine Coast teenager Peyton Craig.

While most of the Coast was sleeping, Craig ran the race of his life at the On Track Nights at Vienna, Austria, last month to smash out a time of 1min44.12sec for the 800m event.

This time was 0.58 seconds faster than the qualifying standard, which led to his inclusion in Australia’s track and field team on Monday.

It also ranked him as the third fastest Australian 800m runner of all time.

“Oh mate, I’m absolutely stoked,” he said after the race via the event’s live stream.

“I ran six 1.45s this year, just trying to click away at the standard and to finally come out and do it, it’s pretty bloody special.”

Peyton Craig at the Australian Athletics Championships in Adelaide in April. Picture: Athletics Australia

New to the European circuit, the race was the 19-year-old’s second on the continent, but it was his last chance to run an Olympic qualifier.

“I think I went in with a mindset of just no regrets,” he said.

“I wanted to walk off the track knowing that I left everything I had out there.”

For his coach Brendan Mallyon, watching the race on his laptop at his Sunshine Coast home was like being on a 1min44.12sec rollercoaster, followed by a flood of emotions.

“My initial feeling after Peyto qualified was that of relief, then sheer joy,” he said.

“In fact, I actually cried tears of joy, especially when Peyto phoned me moments after the race.

“Both Peyto and I knew that he could run the qualifier, but a few things had to align.”

Mallyon has been coaching Craig since he was 12.

It was at this age that Craig’s talent and drive as an athlete shone through, and his parents made the decision to relocate their family from Gladstone to the Sunshine Coast to increase his opportunities.

Peyton Craig and Brendan Mallyon. Picture: Lucy Bowden Media @lbmedia

“Peyton’s parents are his greatest support,” Mallyon said.

Craig met Mallyon, a teacher at Chancellor State College, when he started there as a student and their partnership has been a success since.

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing.

Also an elite triathlete, Craig made the decision only 18 months ago to focus on track running so is quite new to the technicalities of the sport.

He also experienced a painful shin stress injury demanding an almost eight-month complete break from running, returning only last October.

During this time, he focused on becoming stronger in the gym and set himself some lofty goals – including representing Australia in the 800m at Paris 2024.

He has also had his share of losses and frustrations with flatlining times.

However, Mallyon saw these setbacks as an important part of the process.

“The catalyst for Peyton’s breakthrough would have to be learning from each of his races this season and seeking to improve,” he said.

“We learned more from his losses than his wins and identified his weaknesses and addressed them after nationals.”

For Craig and Mallyon, learning, persisting, experimenting, getting knocked down, getting back up and caring have been principles of their training.

“Since making the decision to focus exclusively on track we have made many modifications to Peyton’s training,” Mallyon said.

Peyton Craig training on the Sunshine Coast. Picture: Lucy Bowden Media @lbmedia

“A massive catalyst was becoming part of the PTP (Pathway Transition Program) initiated by Athletics Australia.

“We attended a three-day camp at the AIS in December 2023 and made many connections.

“For me, as coach, there were quality mentors in all aspects of high performance, and I took this opportunity whole-heartedly.

“I continue to access these support people and mentors from this program, even though we have now been selected into the National Athlete Support Scheme.

“For Peyton, there was biomechanics analysis, sports psychology, nutritionists, physiotherapists, strength and conditioning coaches, health and wellbeing support.

“This has been the support team around him and me and for this we are extremely grateful.

“This this also includes his running sponsors On Athletics.

“Another factor is the quality group of training partners that he has around him.”

“The squad have been buzzing with excitement since his qualification and I know that he inspires each of them.”

Mallyon coaches the Sunshine Coast Track Club, a squad of up to 20 young aspiring athletes.

Most of his mornings are filled with the sound of running footsteps and the smell of dewy grass as his charges repeat their sets under his watchful eye.

His ability to motivate them and improve their technique and speed is well regarded and led to him receiving a Sunshine Coast Sports Award for the 2023-24 summer season.

He was nominated by one of his athletes. But he doesn’t like the attention.

“I generally try to avoid the limelight,” he said.

Mallyon also thanked the UniSC High Performance Centre.

Also from the Gladstone region, he was a successful athlete himself, competing at the national level in the 400m hurdle and sprint events.

He and Craig share a similar steely reserve.

When asked if Gladstone had anything to do with his and Craig’s similar drive and determination, Mallyon said: “We call it the nursery, where talent is made.”

So, what is the plan now?

“Our next big goal for now is to make the Olympic finals in Paris,” Mallyon said.

“Hard work beats talent when talent stops working hard … but when talent works hard magic happens.”

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