5 more sleeps and it’s here….
July 22nd, 2012
Wow there is only 5 more sleeps till the Olympics. How has that come around so quickly! Having been coached by Lord Sebastian Coe and living in the UK under his roof when he first started working for the bid as Vice Chairman; watching as he filled the void American Barbara Cassani left when she stood down as Chairman and then speaking to him straight after Jacques Rogge spoke in a dramatic tone to say “London” I am so excited to see my great friend’s hard work come to fruition this week.
In Athens Olympics Seb showed me a model, which was a vision of hope of what they would turn the run down East London into if they won the rights to stage the 30th Modern Olympiad. Last week I was fortunate enough to have a guided tour of this model in real life. It is spectacular. He and his team have accomplished so much. This is going to be an amazing Olympics and one that I can not wait to watch, cheer for the Aussies and support what may look to the world as 2 weeks of a great sporting spectacle but in reality for Seb has been 10 years of blood, sweat and tears!
Being an Olympian is similar to this process that Seb has gone thru. The world sees an athlete run down a runway and spread eagle into a sand pit, or romantically spiral into a pool with minimal splash or even shoot down a moving target whilst in deep concentration. What they don’t see is the years of hard work, the heartache and the sacrifice that has gone into that point. There are many in the world who, try to represent their countries and it is a select few who are lucky enough to do so. Although the press will be filled with many positive and negative stories leading in, I know from personal experience that the Aussie public are proud to be represented and will cheer loudly for every Aussie we have out there representing us. For the first time since I was a child I am looking forward to being a spectator also and doing the same.
I am upset and will always be upset that my federation chose to have no female 800m runner rather than select me. I had won trials and qualified thru standards set by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). Even the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), who ratify selections, boss John Coates has said “the days, as it was once the case, of us imposing a stricter selection criteria than the international qualification-which are now so strict and severe – are gone…We’re happy to have the largest team possible.” I guess this is how Peter Schwab felt when he missed the 1989 Grand Final. You are healthy, in shape and have to spectate. The sad thing unlike Schwab who had Hawthorn fight hard to get him to play and was stopped by bureaucratic red tape it is my own federation I have spent over half my life supporting that have stopped me.
I perhaps should have seen the writing on the wall in 2009 when I had run the A standard and a pb at 30 yet was scratched from the start line of the World Champs by the head coach, Eric Hollingsworth. His reasoning was more super imposed standards he had placed and I hadn’t run .03 and .2 of a second fast enough in my events in the lead up. Any other year since I would have competed. I watched my events in the stands even thou my performances leading in would have easily made the semi finals. Things like this must be eradicated from the sport. Being the best in this country and having world qualifying standards yet it not being enough is heart breaking and disillusioning. My hope for the future is that athletes aren’t left on the sidelines and I as a passionate sports couch potato have the chance to cheer for as many Aussies in track and field that I can.
As always leading into an Olympics the press care about our sport for this small window. This is where we as a sport need to capitalize on the exposure and promote our stars and the sport to back home audiences. The hope is that children are inspired to be the next Ben Harradine, Benita Willis and Dani Samuels or that people are so drawn to the athletics that they become a bottom on a seat at the next grand prix in Australia. Minority sports are about to be in the spot light and I cant wait to see who the next Sally ‘did you see me’ McLellan (as she was then known) is. The beauty of the Olympics is it may not be the gold medalist that captures the imagination of the nations kids. Stories of triumphs are not always about medals. An athletes interview post competition, a human interest piece of them, or the popularity of their event could be reasons for children taking up athletics post London Olympics. Track and Field is competing with other sports for attention during these 2 weeks. The men’s 100m is the most watched event and Joss Ross could have been out there inspiring future indigenous children showing them his story of triumph thru adversity. A story our federation has put a stop to by not selecting him in the individual 100m even thou they could. The reverse effect has occurred by tougher standards being made with definite relay runner these games and past 100m national champion, Aaron Rouge-Serret, walking away indefinitely from our sport aged just 24.
I have spent the best part of 2 decades running for my country at all levels and doing so proudly. Not a day goes by that I don’t realize how lucky I am for the opportunities I have had to travel the world and run for Australia as an 800m/400m runner and at times a 4 hurdler. I really hope that the next generation of 8 girls back home, many who I have trained along side are given those opportunities that I had and I can’t wait to see the next sub 2 girl come along. I also hope that the press, don’t judge them as harshly as they sometimes have me. Sub 2 is not easy. In the history of women’s 800 running in our country only 2 athletes have ever gone under the A standard these Olympics has set. Not even the Aussie record holder would make it as her time is only hand held which is not allowed and her time which is electronic is over 2 minutes. It is a tough event and in Australia without the depth of Europe only tougher. The girls have a lot of potential but abuse does not help we must nurture and support our talent. That goes for all events. Depth encourages better performance. Every time I ran sub 2, bar 1, there was another sub 2 girl in the field! I ran sub 2 on 17 occasions. I know what it takes. It takes a good competitive field, and they must be willing to push the pace. Last Olympics only 5 girls went under 2 minutes in the heats. The 800 is a competition it isn’t easy about time trialing at championships. The girls will get better only with depth and support!
Changes need to be made and hopefully when media/board members/athletics communities delve deeper they will see how there are a lot of injustices that have occurred not only to me but many before. The goal has to be for a united sport athletes and administrators. The future needs to be more about athletes and less about the politics.
It has been an exhilarating ride for me in this sport. From getting the phone call as a 15 year old to say I made the 1994 Commonwealth Games Team to winning my 18th National title this year. I have had so many great moments and a lot of disappointing ones. Every step of the way I have had an amazing family and unbelievable support. I look left and right and I am loved which has made my journey so much better. Winning the World Indoor title for me was a culmination of a lot of hard work and this support. I know some have their own opinions on whether I deserved to run at these Olympics. I also know I tried 100% thru out my whole career and this year was no different. It is enough for me that the people I care about and myself know what was thrown at me, what I overcame and that I never gave up. I take heart in the fact that I ran sub 2min at 2 Olympics and have beaten Olympic champions and medalists along the way. I have never shied away from a contest and I always gave all I had. When my head hits the pillow each night I don’t care what a journalist with half the facts or some faceless name says on a social media site, I care what I think and the people who mean a lot to me think. That’s why I sleep well. I gave my whole heart and soul to this sport and I love it. And I love it for the right reasons. I may not have had the backing of my federation this year. However when the Olympics are on and I watch the womens 800 I know that I would have given a good account of myself and represented Australia well.
I do want to thank a few people thou in this blog. I am a big believer that although running is an individual sport I certainly have never been alone on my journey.
Fristly to my coaches! Neville Sillitoe, Peter Fortune, Sebastion Coe, Daley Thompson, Roy Boyd, Martin Barrow and Justin Lewis. Each have provided me with so much and I am proud to call each one still a friend.
To my club Sandringham, my home away from home such an amazing support network and team.
Mr magic hands himself Garry Miritis and Darren from Miritis massage, my lack of injuries and longjevity in the sport are testimony to you both. You are the best in the business.
Also to Jason Agosta my podiatrist and Chris Ward my physiotherapist I saw you both first as a 14 year old and still use you both today your that good! Thanks for all the help along the way.
Maurie and Brian thanks for always getting me into the best races. Its funny athletes are often obsessed with prize money I was always obsessed with racing the best in the world. I would still rather finish mid field in a golden league than win a small meet to pick up euros.
My great training partners. From Tom Crowley in 2000 to Ben Bailey in 2002 and to Pete, Al, Jayso and Marty in 2008 and now with Katsa, Lisa, James and crew. You guys have kept it fun and even thou I have hated you all at times when you have come running past fresher than me I know I was able to race on the international stage because of you all.
To all my friends, thanks for forgiving me for missing so many important occasions and being completely boring at times. I promise to make it up to each of you very soon!!
To my Mum and Dad…WOW. Could a daughter be any luckier. Two parents to look up to, and to always have caught me when I fell. I knew no matter what happened out on the track you were always close by to make it better. All my achievements are because of you. It’s so much easier to try things when you know that you’re loved and supported so much.
To my husband Graham…your support is always unwavering. It is hard to meet such a selfless successful sports person. You always put me first and what you have done to help me achieve my goals makes me the luckiest wife in the world. I have never been happier since we met. You have shown me a better side of life and that’s why I am not afraid of what the future post athletics holds.
And finally to my brother Justin, who has really helped me achieve on the track and made me a better person off it. The hours you have put into helping me (which is where I have to also thank one of my bestest mates and sister in law Leanne and the kids for allowing me to take your time!!). You taught me that the most important thing in track is to get the most out of ones self. There were lots of ups and downs but you made my career perfect. I know that no matter what anyone says it doesn’t matter as you and I know that we worked hard and never took the easy option. If I had to lead and run a crazy first lap pace I did it. I know that the phone call with you before the final of world indoors was why I became a world champion. Winning a world indoor title and beating arguably the best 800m runner ever in Maria Mutola was a moment you gave me that I will cherish for life. I can never thank you enough. A coach is the most vital ingredient in a middle distance athlete’s career. And I was so lucky to have you as my coach.
I’m not sure if I will race again. I am a competitor and I find it hard to keep racing if there’s no longer a goal. There is only so long you can put your life on hold for a sport that really doesn’t make you feel like they want you anymore. I do love racing thou and most of my races this year were about chasing a time. I have always hated time trialing as it changes the nature of middle distance running. I love the 800 because it’s a contest and not always about times. So perhaps I may race a few more after the games before hanging up the spikes just because it would be nice to be amongst the pack and racing without the pressure of the clock one more time. You will see me at athletics still thou. I will be where I love it most. At my club rooms at Sandringham helping out at grass roots level and trying to change things for the better of the athlete….
Good luck to all at the Olympics…what an amazing experience you are all about to have. Fingers crossed to more aussies being inspired to the track and the field next year and beyond…
It’s been fun xxx