It’s rare for an Australian to finish last in a race and be happy, but there’s more to Steven Solomon than meet the eye.
Ambition, focus and dedication, this young man from Sydney has got the lot. Oh, and after the Olympics he will start a scholarship at Stanford University. But there is no need to be jealous about the son of an orthopaedic surgeon who has made a meteoric rise to the top.
It’s hard to fathom that only three years ago, Solomon, 19, represented Australia at the 18th Maccabiah Games. Playing football. Over the past week he has been ripping up the history books on his way to reaching the 400m finals.
In his heat, Solomon saw off the challenge of the defending Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt to win in a time of 45.18.
Fortune smiled on him in the semi-finals when he qualified for the final as one of the fastest losers following a lifetime best of 44.97. Both these races saw Solomon run in the outside lanes, but his luck was to run out as he was drawn in lane two in the final at the Olympic Stadium.
One of three teenagers in the race, his gruelling effort of the past few days had clearly caught up with him, although the hulking athlete used every ounce of energy in a bid to make up lost ground, but unlike his first two races, his young frame would not respond and he crossed the line in eighth place in a time of 45.14. Kirani James of Grenada won the race in 43.94.
“Someone has to finish last, but I gave it everything,” panted a tired Solomon. “I’m not disappointed with myself at all. I can walk away with my head held high.
“I wasn’t doing athletics three years ago and have knocked eight seconds off my times over the past two-and-a-half years.”
“I’m had a great time at the Olympics and have given my family and friends so much joy. I’m really grateful for their support.
“I’ve been really impressed with my ability to control my emotions, while the crowd are going off their heads. The atmosphere has been unreal.
“I always have high expectations. Being young and ambitious I wanted to reach the 400m final and I’ve still got the relays to come.”
Solomon became the first Australian to reach the 400m final since Darren Clarke in 1988. He said: “Darren’s a hero of mine and this is something I can be really proud of.”
In the build-up to the Games, Solomon joined the Australian athletics team at a training camp at Tonbridge School, which he describes as “an amazing place with great support.”
Looking back on his first week of competition, he said: “There are many positives for me. I really believed in myself and ran a lifetime best. It’s been a really successful year for me and this only makes me even hungrier.
“From here I go to Stanford. It’s where I feel I need to be and I’ll get a great education at the same time. It will expose me to this level of competition regularly.”