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Teenage sprint sensation lays down the Law for the future beyond Pacific Games

Andrew Mathieson -

A mob Elder inserted the kind of wisdom in Calab Law's head early in life, delivering to the prospective sprinter a belief in his character beyond the track that just belied his age.

The realisation of the Indigenous teen's potential first came about inside the athletics bubble close to a decade ago, which makes his vast progression all the more difficult to comprehend how Law has been talked up for so long but yet is just 19 years old.

Heading into his first major senior competition at the Pacific Games, the world under-20 championship bronze medallist often looks to only one figure to understand him.

Like respect for culture, Aunty Karla is simply all she goes by around the track.

She had a lifespan on the Australian athletic circuit once, but nowadays Law's mentor is never referred in close circles also by her surname.

"My Aunty Karla was a 400-metre runner and the one that first saw potential in me so I gave it a go," Law told SBS Sport ahead of lining up in the 100m and 200m, starting from November 27 in Honiara on the Solomon Islands.

The junior coach spotted Law and converted the hurdler and long jumper barely past his 10th birthday, and by the time he was 12 years of age, she had him with his head looking down, out of the blocks and staying in his lane.

Prominent coach Andrew Iselin is very much in charge of the day-to-day operations to prepare Law for the Pacific Games, but Aunty Karla is never terribly far from earshot and ready to hand out calming words of advice.

"She's very involved and very supportive still," Law said.

Just like their kinship ties and her connection to Law, not all of the lessons have been about setting a path just on the sheer fundamentals of sprinting.

There was a growing desire to explore the corners of his culture in an ambassadorial position of an education program where Law connected with a yarn to First Nation athletes and their communities around the country while on country.

The Caboolture talent had also got to understand the closeknit Wakka Wakka culture better too.

The mob's community centres around Cherbourg, a spirited Aboriginal-encompassing township in rural Queensland, a little more than a couple hours' drive from his home base.

"Ever since I was little, it's always been a part of my family," Law said.

"All of my family on the Indigenous side, from my experience, it is a very supportive culture. Everyone is there for each other.

"With my family, I'm not even related to (some of) them, but that's my Aunty, that's my cousin and that's my uncle there."

That Wakka Wakka mob were said to be besides themselves last year when gathering together to watch Law's bronze-medal performance that was specially beamed live from Colombia on a big screen.

That sort of heartfelt support from his people, the bigger his name has grown, boosted his morale again after Law had little choice but to take an indefinite break in the midst of his athletics.

The lingering growing pains that a few young athletes occasionally do experience also put the partnership with Aunty on hold for an indefinite period.

So when Law suffered a stress fracture in his spine earlier this year, there was no fear ahead of the long road to recovery.

A mature outlook allowed him to take the next step of physical and nutritional requirements to reach the elite level.

"Everything is perfect right now," Law said.

"I haven't had anything go wrong during my recovery, and I've been doing a lot more improvements to the gym, diet, and my track work."

It is the latest step in Law's journey towards personal growth and a balanced lifestyle, in which he is tying into a burgeoning track career.

The records, for one, are already starting to fall, one by one.

That bronze medal was the first international medal by an Australian, of any age, in a 200m competition for the better part of three decades.

While that was no mean feat, Law also delivered another mark as the first teenager, at just 18 years, to qualify for an open World Athletics Championships semi-final.

Next on the agenda is Pacific Games gold, and what comes with that win is automatic qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics while a potential crack at the national record is on the cards.

Born five and a half months after athletics icon Cathy Freeman walked away from the sport that others struggled to catch her, Law has watched all the tapes, sat back nodding, while admiring the way his Indigenous hero has tackled the bends.

He harbours a burning ambition to be emulate her dominance that is spoken about in the same aura around Australia that it did 20 years back.

"I have always wanted to do it since I was a kid," Law said.

"I have watched athletes like Cathy Freeman and always just sat there like, 'I want to do that'.

"I want to be better than them.

"So, I think now that I'm almost at the level that I want to be, I'm going to keep going and keep pushing to be better."

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