Body sense is Moloney key to Brisbane 32

Ian Chadband |

Ash Moloney after his bronze medal-winning performance in the world indoor championships.
Ash Moloney after his bronze medal-winning performance in the world indoor championships.

Ash Moloney harbours distant dreams of being crowned the world’s greatest athlete at his home Olympics – even while he laughs how his body may need to be held together with sticky tape and glue on the road to Brisbane 2032.

Australia could see again it has a once-in-a-generation allrounder on its hands when the gifted 22-year-old recently took world indoor heptathlon bronze to go with his Olympic decathlon medal of the same hue.

But the Queenslander’s magnificent debut indoor performance in Belgrade also gave a hint of the complex balancing act needed to ensure he doesn’t succumb to the injuries that so often come with the unique stresses and strains of being a top multi-eventer.

Moloney won his latest gong despite admitting he effectively had to pull his punches in the high jump because he couldn’t afford to aggravate patellar tendonitis in his right knee.

If he’d gone flat out in that event, he reckons, he might have ended up suffering longer-term problems that would have kept him out of his main targets this year – the Commonwealth Games and the world championships.

But far beyond that, Moloney is trying to ensure he’s still around in a decade for the really big one.

“It’s good if I can prevent injuries to help the longevity of my career,” he says.

“2032 is in Brisbane, and I want to make it to there – so I need to stay healthy until then.”

It may feel like a lifetime away but when he looked up at Canada’s Damian Warner, who’d beaten him to gold in both Tokyo and Belgrade, it offered real encouragement.

“There’s a good decade to go until Brisbane but decathletes tend to make it until they’re between 28 and 32. Well, Damian is 32 and he’s absolutely blowing everyone out of the water at the moment,” mused the Logan star.

“I look up to that guy so much and I hope to be like him one day.”

Taking that long view means Moloney has to make some hard choices, though – like giving a miss to this week’s national championships in Sydney.

“I’d love to do nationals but I fly 24 hours (back from Belgrade) to get back home and I don’t want to hurt myself trying to compete with jet lag,” explained Moloney after his competition in Belgrade.

“I love competing on home soil but unfortunately this year I’ve got bigger fish to fry.”

Eugene’s World Championship and Birmingham’s Commonwealth Games decathlons are the big catches, crammed into the space of 19 days in August.

Some distinguished figures like two-time Olympic champion Ashton Eaton has suggested doing both would be a mistake because of the physical stresses.

But Moloney is going for the double. “I’ll keep the body together with some sticky tape and some glue,” he laughs, saying he’ll make the occasional appearance in Australia before Eugene while adamant there’ll be no decathlons anywhere before the worlds.

Competition and body management is going to be crucial for Moloney.

During the world indoors, both he and his coach Eric Brown sensed overpushing in the high jump could have had long-term consequences.

“I’ve been dealing with patellar tendonitis in my right knee for some time now. High jump’s a very technical event, there’s a lot of twisting and you’ve got to do it right,” said Moloney.

“I was actually in better condition than in Tokyo, but I didn’t want to go back to where I was pre-Tokyo when I could barely walk.

“The idea was let’s actually make it to the next world championships (in Eugene) rather than going for medals that will prevent me going.”

Moloney reckons he’s still learning what he calls a “monster of an event” and admits that he still gets “the jitters” when going into the big events.

Again, he looks to the likes of Warner. “It’s still a new experience for me every time I compete, but if you watch the more experienced guys like Damian, there’s no stress, he’s cool as!

“Those boys all have the confidence. Experience gives you confidence and I don’t trust myself 100 per cent yet – but it’s coming!”