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Steve Hooker backs John Steffensen’s racism claims

AUSTRALIAN team captain Steve Hooker has backed John Steffensen’s claims he was mistreated at the Beijing Olympics but has urged his teammate to move on.

The defending Olympic pole vault champion found himself embroiled in the ongoing Steffensen saga after the 400m runner said Hooker was present when he’d been kicked out of his room in Beijing and allegedly racially abused by a team official.

“The staff member that was involved in that incident in Beijing isn’t on this team so as far as this team goes I don’t believe John has any issues with anyone on this team,” Hooker said.

“That is stuff from the past and unfortunately John is still carrying that around with him and still has an issue with it.”

But we all hope as a team, and we hope for John, that we can get past that for the sake of this next two weeks and if there is stuff that still needs to be resolved at a later date then it can happen then.

“I am sure it is distracting for John, I hope it is not too distracting for him and I hope he can get through it and move on. John is very good at doing that and at using that sort of negative energy, if you like, to bring out the best in himself and a good performance. I hope for the sake of that 4x400m team they can do that.”

Steffensen missed the Australian team photo but did make an appearance on the training track even though officials had suggested he was feeling under the weather.

High-performance manager Eric Hollingsworth said he was confident there had been no racial discrimination against Steffensen or any other athlete during his tenure.

“We are talking about something that is four years old,” he said.

“I was not the head coach then so how would I be able to make comment on it when I wasn’t in that team. It would be inappropriate of me to speculate in any shape or form.”

Steffensen’s outburst came after he was overlooked for the individual 400m spot, which was handed to Sydney teenager Steve Solomon by the Athletics Australia selection panel, acting against the wishes of Hollingsworth who had stated that no B standard qualifiers would be selected ahead of the Games.

“I have already had numerous conversations with John all the way along and I am very versed in John’s point of view and where we are at,” Hollingsworth said.

“And he is very versed in my point of view about our team and what we are trying to do for Australia.

“The selectors thought (to pick Solomon) and I am comfortable with what the selectors said and where we are going. Those decisions have aready been made and we have moved on.”

Solomon vindicated the faith of the selectors by producing a personal best time in winning the bronze medal at the world junior championships in Barcelona.

The 19-year-old said he had deliberately kept out of the “tidal wave” of controversy surrounding his selection and hadn’t been hurt by Steffensen’s comments.

“My training has been fantastic, my general vibe has been fantastic and I’m in a really happy place at the moment,” Solomon said.

“I usually perform well when I’m happy so John’s comments aren’t going to affect me whatsoever.

“Look, I understand where John was upset, we both had B qualifiers but fortunately for myself the selectors have taken me and I’m just looking forward to hopefully doing my best.”

Solomon was confident he would be able to work with Steffensen in the 4x400m relay.

“You look at how Australia’s 4x400m team has had such success at past Olympics and world championships,” he said.

“John is fully aware of the fact, and he’s brought it up, that team chemistry, team bonding is so pivotal to that.

“I am sure he is going to do the best he can to make sure that environment continues that way and we will all come together as a team, run as a team and hopefully achieve success as a team.”

by: Scott Gullan

from: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/sport/london-olympics/steve-hooker-backs-john-steffensens-racism-claims/story-fn9dheyx-1226433755444

John Steffensen
John Steffensen

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