Australian 100-metre hurdler, Michelle Jenneke, is ready and hungry for her first Olympic Games in Rio.
Australia has high hopes for the golden girl – but there is much more to her than meets the eye.
When Michelle, now 23, took second place win at the Youth Olympics in Singapore, 2010, and fifth at the World Junior Championships in Barcelona, 2012, then met the Olympic qualification standard at the Australian National Championships this year, no one was surprised. Well, except for Michelle: “It was never a goal for me,” she told The Newsroom. “I’ve always been a realist and I didn’t really believe it was possible until about two years ago.”
With reality only just setting in, Michelle is really excited to meet the team for her first taste of an Olympic Games: “It is such a globally significant event and it’s really special to be a part of it.”
Michelle has been training hard, clocking up to eight hours a week on the track plus four in the gym to build her strength. “There have been lots of people helping to push me along. I have my strength and conditioning coach, Jason Howell, and I have my track coach, Mick Zisti, who I have been training with since I was 10 years old.
Michelle is now focusing her energy on preparing mentally for the games. “All the hard work was done months ago… I think it’s really important to have a strong network of family and friends supporting you. Doing so much athletics can really weigh on your head. It’s so important to have people who can pick you up when things aren’t going well.
Michelle first caught the public eye at the 2012 World Juniors, when a video of her warm-up dance went viral on YouTube. Michelle said she does it before every big race – so we can expect to see some pre-race moves in Rio.
“It’s something I started back in 2009. I was feeling really flat before a race, so I started jumping around to pump myself up, and ended up running an awesome race. It got me through a really bad frame of mind and I’ve never gone back.”
The video reached nearly 28 million views and proved a blessing in disguise, leading to many high-status modelling jobs for brands such as Sports Illustrated, Lonsdale and Puma. Above anything her focus remains on the track, but Michelle is really thankful for the opportunities it has given to her: “The positives from it outweigh the negatives.”
In addition to training, Michelle keeps herself very busy studying mechatronic engineering at the University of Sydney.
“It’s not too bad,” she said. “I’m doing two subjects at a time and so far I’m managing it quite well… I’m just happy I haven’t had to sleep over in the lab yet.” Despite years of hard work already under her belt, Michelle does not yet know where she wants this course to take her. “At the moment I’m just enjoying the content. At this rate I still have about three years to go so I’m hoping that I’ll know by the end of the degree.”
After Sally Pearson’s injury and withdrawal, Michelle will now be the only Australian female hurdler competing in Rio. “I feel like its going to be a bit lonely,” she told The Newsroom. “I’ll have to do a few training sessions by myself.”
So what about pressure? A Problem? Surprisingly, no. “My main goal is to run a personal best, and hopefully that will be enough to get through to the final. I’m only here now cause I enjoy the sport.
“The best advice I can give anyone is to make sure, before anything else, you enjoy what you do.” – Holly Cormack
Top image from Michelle Jenneke’s Instagram page.