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Why Jenneke won't take racing more seriously

Michelle Jenneke of Australia with fans after winning the women's 100m hurdles during the Nitro Athletics Series in February.
Michelle Jenneke of Australia with fans after winning the women's 100m hurdles during the Nitro Athletics Series in February. TRACEY NEARMY

MICHELLE Jenneke will be one of Australia's most recognisable athletes for as long as she competes.

The hurdler's good looks and trademark dance before each race have made her a marketing dream but her performances on the track haven't always been so excitable.

The 23-year-old bombed at the Rio Olympics last year when she was plastered on billboards all over the city as the face of Coca-Cola. She finished sixth in her heat of the 100m hurdles as her Olympic experience was all over in a matter of seconds.

Jenneke also had a disappointing run at the national championships this past weekend, fading to third in the 100m hurdles final behind Brianna Beahan and Olympic gold medallist Sally Pearson.

Many have questioned whether "Jiggling Jenneke" has higher priorities than her athletic career. With so many offers of endorsements and other activities that keep her busier than most of her rivals, perhaps crossing the line first isn't always on her mind.

Australia's head athletics coach during the 2016 Olympics, Craig Hilliard, slammed Jenneke for not preparing well enough for the biggest tournament of her life, suggesting she may have been distracted by other callings.

"It's something that I need to discuss with her and go through with her, with her program. She certainly didn't arrive here in the shape she should have arrived in," Hilliard said.

Jenneke later had her funding cut by Athletics Australia.

 

Michelle Jenneke of Australia on her way to winning the women's 100m hurdles at the Nitro Athletics Series.
Michelle Jenneke of Australia on her way to winning the women's 100m hurdles at the Nitro Athletics Series. TRACEY NEARMY

But whereas sport is the be-all and end-all for most athletes, Jenneke will never look at her career like that. The NSW product says she doesn't want to put athletics on a pedestal above all else because she fears the pressure would become all-consuming.

"I think it is quite a big commitment but if you think about it like that it's really going to wear you down and you're going to think about it being a big commitment and how it's taking over your life and that's not the way I like to look at it," Jenneke said on the Big Sports Breakfast.

"I like to look at it as the fact that I compete in the hurdles and I train all this time because I love it so I go into all those sessions just thinking, 'It's not the hard work, I'm just going out and doing what I love.' I don't really let that weigh on me, I just try to enjoy myself."

People may forever try and convince Jenneke she needs to be far more serious with her approach on the track, but she believes a lighter attitude is the way to go. The haters won't change that view.

Everyone has to maintain a work-life balance and Jenneke has clearly decided hurdling is her passion more so than a job. But that doesn't mean she doesn't care about her results.

She's still determined to rack up quicker times. She linked up with new coach Ash Mahoney after the Olympics and while the results haven't been overly impressive just yet, she's hoping her performances will improve with time.

She also says she enjoys the rivalry with Australia's premier hurdler Pearson because it motivates her to go even faster.

 

Australia's Michelle Jenneke waves to the crowd before her heat in the women's 100m hurdles at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Australia's Michelle Jenneke waves to the crowd before her heat in the women's 100m hurdles at the Rio 2016 Olympics. DAVE HUNT

"It is actually really good for me, it's good that she (Pearson) is running well because it helps me try and get some faster times on the board which is what it's all about. I want to be the best that I can be," Jenneke said.

"Training's been going pretty well. Unfortunately I didn't have the greatest race at nationals this weekend, some of those pesky hurdles got in the way, but things are looking good gearing up for the next year or so.

"I've just recently started working with a new coach when I came back from the Olympics and we've started working on some things. We're not quite seeing that in my races but give it another 12 months and I definitely think we'll start seeing some really big improvements on the track."

On her pre-race routine, Jiggling Jenneke turned into Giggling Jenneke when asked how her dance moves are coming along.

"The dancing preparation is good," Jenneke laughed. "People see me doing a dance on the track and it's part of my enjoyment ... I love being there and I love racing and that's how I express that.

"If you watch me during my warm up I'm dancing the whole way through it. I've always got music playing and I'm just really getting into it, it's how I pump myself up for the race."

Topics:  michelle

News Corp Australia

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