FORMER Sutherland Shire Olympian Daniel Batman was a unique competitor in Australian athletics. And his death, at 31, following a Northern Territory car accident early Tuesday morning, has shocked the wider athletics community.
Batman, who was married but had split from fellow sprinter and Hockeyroo Nova Peris and was reportedly visiting their two children on Monday, was our most versatile sprinter, winning races from 400 metres down to 100m.
He won numerous national titles, including the men's 200m in 2005 and 2006, after competing at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, where he tore his hamstring in the heats of the 400m.
His best result on the international stage was a sixth place at the World Indoor Championships in 2003, and was controversially overlooked for the Athens Olympics despite running 200m in 20.60sec.
Batman's 400m winning heat time of 46.11sec remains the Australian indoor record, and his time of 45.02sec (outdoors) in Canberra, in February 2003, remains the eighth-fastest run by an Australian.
The son of a sports scientist, Daniel Batman grew up in Melbourne as a direct descendant of John Batman, the founder of the city.
He went to Melbourne's Cranbrook School and Sydney's Scots College after his parents Paul and Christine moved to Gymea Bay, and excelled at sprinting.
While short in stature, it didn't prevent him beating the more traditional, taller 200m and 400m opponents — first at junior and then senior level.
Long-time coach Paul Hallam, who helped Batman last summer during his attempted return to the sport, rang the Leader yesterday to pay tribute to the sprinter he described as the "toughest and most respected" in Australian athletics.
"Dan worked like an animal," said Mr Hallam, who trains many Sutherland Shire athletes such as national beach sprint champion and national 100m finalist Elly Graf.
"I don't know anyone who trained harder. And he was so competitive on the track. With [former champion] Dean Cappobianco, Dan was the most versatile sprinter.
"He was short but immensely strong. It was because he was so good, he did have trouble working out his best event."
He said he was going to be "a big loss". "Daniel was a great family man, and trustworthy," he added. "He spoke up for himself and others, and that's why he was a delegate on the Athletes' Commission."
Batman and former Aussie track queen Nova Peris were married for almost a decade and had two children, Destiny and Jack.
They separated about two years ago and he found a new partner, Natalie Sainsbury, who last year gave birth to their first child, Liberty, in Canberra, where Batman was working in a government IT job.
He was reportedly visiting his first two children when killed early Tuesday after his car left the Arnhem Highway, south-east of Darwin, crashed into a culvert and rolled 10 metres, breaking up. A passing motorist alerted police to the incident about 7am and the highway remained closed for several hours.
Funeral arrangements are yet to be announced.
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