Catriona Bisset wins 800m after Sally Pearson withdraws


“I was shocked that no one got me in the [last] hundred. I was running scared the whole time,” Bisset said.

Over the past 15 months, the 25-year-old Victorian has come from nowhere, wiping more than seven seconds off her personal best, with the Tokyo Olympics next year now firmly on the horizon.

Bisset displayed promise on the track as a junior, but admits her journey in the sport is a bit “weird”.

“I went to nationals last year and the year before as well. Before that, I think the last time I went to nationals I was 12 or 13. So I was a bit of an early bloomer.

“I ran a 58 [second] for the 400 [metres] when I was like 12, then it was all downhill from there.”

While she was at university, Bisset went through a mental health crisis. She initially found running to be a positive recovery tool.

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“I was going through a really bad patch of just these horrible cycles of depression around my undergrad,” she said.

“The last couple of years I just decided to take up running more seriously again because it was so good for my health and my mental health.”

Bisset is completing a master’s of architecture and a diploma of Chinese language at Melbourne University, and concedes she might have to postpone her studies to focus on running.

“[Winning] was completely not in the plan for the year,” she said. “[I’ll] probably take second semester off and go to [Doha].

Bisset traces her periods of darkness back many years.

“Through my childhood, I had a lot of issues with eating disorders and anxiety. I’ve always had horrible problems with anxiety,” she said.

“I just had a lot of stuff that I wasn’t dealing with as a kid, and then it all kind of came to a head when I was living by myself out of home, and that really stressful environment of uni.”

While Bisset is confident she has “come out the other side”, she is determined to use her voice to speak up about mental health.

“It’s been a really big passion of mine as well recently, being really open about it. I used to be very, very closed off, but now i feel like I almost have this responsibility to be really candid about that last 10 or so years of my life where I’ve been quite up and down mental health-wise.

“I think in athletics it’s really difficult, I think there’s so much mental health stuff that gets brushed under the carpet.

“But there’s a line there between general anxiety and something a bit more sinister.”

The final day of the national titles saw teenage heptathlete Celeste Mucci win the 100m hurdles ahead of Michelle Jenneke and Brianna Beahan, after pre-race favourite Pearson withdrew due to exhaustion.

Pearson had qualified fastest in 12.99 seconds, but chose to skip the final saying she was “buggered”.

Teenage kicks: Celeste Mucci did the heptathlon and hurdles double at the national titles.Credit:AAP

Whether she would have won will never be known, although her qualifying time was faster than Mucci’s winning time.

Mucci, 19, also became the first Australian woman since Jane Flemming in 1994 to win the hurdles and the heptathlon double.

Naa Anang made history as the first woman ever to win the long jump and 100 metres, despite only commencing competition in the latter event this summer.

Lauren Wells won her seventh consecutive 400m hurdles crown, and 12th overall.

Alex Hartmann took out his fifth men’s 200m title, in 20.68 seconds, while Steve Solomon won his sixth 400m title. Luke Matthews comfortably won the 1500m.

Josh Dye is a news reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.

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