On 9 February 2014, a 23-year-old Melissa Breen broke the National Australian Women’s 100 metre record at the AIS track.
Melissa ran 11.11 seconds in her heat at the ACT Championships, breaking Melinda Gainsford-Taylor’s 20-year record.
“It’s where I’ve trained since I was 14 years old and to achieve that goal at a place that meant so much to me means the absolute world,” Melissa said.
When the AIS track was set for replacement, staff ensured this historic moment would not be forgotten. They saved the lane number from the finish line where Melissa set her record and AIS carpenter Pat Callahan mounted the piece to a frame he built using recycled wood from the AIS basketball floor.
The $2 million upgrade included replacing the synthetic track and asphalt layer underneath to bring it up to international standards. Mondo is widely recognised as a superior athletic surface and is the only surface accepted by the International Olympic Committee for Olympic Games venues, meaning athletes at the AIS will train on the same surface to be used at Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Athletics Australia chose the new blue colour.
The new surface has Melissa’s tick of approval.
“I love the new track. Mondo is the best surface you can run on. There’s already been some really fast times by the boys and girls over the summer so hopefully it leads to some really competitive times leading to Olympic trials.”
The Tokyo Olympic Games is fast approaching and Melissa is setting her sights on making the women’s 4x100m relay team.
“Last year I went to the world championships with a great group of girls, some of them are 10 years younger than me, which makes me feel a little old at times! They are an amazing group of girls who will continue this legacy on and build a really strong women’s 4x100m leading into the Commonwealth Games in a couple of years’ time and again on to Paris in 2024.
“I feel very grateful to be part of a really great group of girls that are running really fast and to be given this opportunity, currently ranked 13 in the world, is absolutely awesome. So you have to be top 16 come the end of June and we’ll be on that Olympic team, so it’s really exciting.”
“I’ll be doing everything I can to get myself on that team again. To be called a three-time Olympian would be something very special to me.”
Melissa assures us the plaque will go in a very special place, next to her two Olympic kits and the kit she wore when she broke the record.
“I’m Canberra born and bred, and I’ve trained at the AIS my entire career and I got the record on the track. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
A second plaque, also with the number 4 from the starting line, is on display in Sportex.