For a club that’s only been around for four years, the records are rapidly building.
Among the achievements now, an Olympic finalist.
The approach has been simple from the start.
“Looking at what you need to run a fast 800 and not worrying too much about anything else,” says Justin Rinaldi.
The Melbourne-based coach, a former national 800 metres champion himself, started the Fast 8 Track Club in 2017 with just a handful of runners.
Among them Sudanese-born Peter Bol.
Along with Joseph Deng, Rinaldi knew he had some serious talent on his hands.
They started talking about the national record.
Ralph Doubell had held the Australian benchmark for the 800m since the 1968 Mexico Olympics (Alex Rowe equalled the time under Rinaldi’s tutelage in 2014).
But they were determined to better it before the record turned 50.
“Which we did, which was great,” says Rinaldi.
Deng shaved nearly two tenths of a second off the time at a race in Monaco in 2018 when he ran 1 minute 44.21.
It was the start of what was to become a golden run for the club.
Bol went on to win the next two 800m national championships and by mid-2021 was preparing for his second Olympic Games.
In the first round of the 800m at Tokyo, Bol ran 1:44.13 to set a new Australian record.
A day later he ran two one-hundredths of a second quicker — the fourth national record for Rinaldi and his crew.
Secrets to Rinaldi’s success
Rinaldi says learning from his experience as a runner, which included racing around the world, has been key to his coaching success.
“I tell my guys, ‘don’t worry about making any mistakes because I’ve already made them for you’.”
The 49-year-old coach says there are a couple of key differences between his approach and others’.
“We’re very consistent year-round,” he explains.
“All year we’re working on speed and all year we’re working on endurance, where I think a lot of other programs spend the whole winter working on endurance and then try and get fast by the end of the summer.”
His training philosophy is not just working wonders for guys like Bol and Deng.
Former Australian champion Jeff Riseley’s career appeared all but over when he recently joined Rinaldi.
At 34 years old, many had written him off and laughed as the two formed a plan to get him to a fourth Olympics.
So it was an emotional moment when Riseley lined up at Tokyo having posted one of his fastest runs in years to qualify.
A name not known in Australia but well known in the tiny Cook Islands is Alex Beddoes.
He also joined the Rinaldi squad and in Tokyo posted a new national record for his country when he ran 1:47.26.
“He’s not that far off being in contention against the top athletes in the world. He’s gone from being an ‘also-ran’ to being right up there,” says Rinaldi.
On a mission to inspire next generation
National records are one thing, Olympic titles are another.
Bol came agonisingly close to a medal last night and says he will come back stronger.
Rinaldi knows a win on the Olympic stage would have enormous impact on Bol — because believe it or not, this world-class runner only just makes ends meet.
“If you looked at the standard cost of living for a single person in Australia, it’s around about $36,000 a year that you need to pay for rent and the bare necessities and he’s probably just right on that,” Rinaldi says of his charge.
But both agree, it’s about more than money and medals.
“We inspired the whole nation and that’s the goal,” Bol told Australian TV audiences after his fourth place finish.