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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Chelsea Jaensch had seven years away from athletics – now heading to the Olympics

Chelsea Jaensch had seven years away from athletics – now heading to the Olympics

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Adelaide’s Chelsea Jaensch had seven years away from athletics – now she is heading to the Rio Olympics

By Matt Turner
Northern Messenger
April 20, 2016

Long jumper Chelsea Jaensch is off to the Rio Olympics despite taking a seven-year break from athletics between the ages of 19 and 26. Picture: Jono Searle.

CHELSEA Jaensch was 19 when she turned her back on athletics for more than seven years.

“I was injured, tired, overwhelmed, wanted to focus on getting a career – just fed up,” recalls Jaensch, who was a heptathlete at the time.

“I threw it in, went to uni, got a job (as a radiographer).”

But after a messy relationship breakdown, Jaensch found herself running laps at her old school, Trinity College, and competing again for Salisbury at intra-club meets at Athletics SA Stadium in 2012 – this time in long jump.

“I developed a little bit of anxiety, and one of the things I was encouraged to do was go on and do things I used to enjoy but didn’t do any more,” she says.

“One of those things was going back to athletics.

“I wasn’t very fit but I thought ‘I used to be all right at this, maybe I should have another crack’.”

It rekindled her Olympic dream, which began when she collected newspaper clippings for a scrapbook during the 1992 Barcelona Games.

This month the comeback culminated in Jaensch, 31 and now based in Brisbane, earning selection for this year’s Rio Olympics after nailing a qualifying jump in Canberra in February and finishing third at the national titles.

“In that time off, if you’d sat me down and told me in five years’ time or seven years’ time I’d be making an Olympic team, I’d have said you were crazy.”

Jaensch spent her break from athletics playing netball for Virginia and in the Barossa and Light competition, as well as working fulltime as a radiographer.

“I played A-grade netty, loved it and it kept me reasonably fit.”

Jaensch was almost 26 when a three-year relationship ended.

“It took about 18 months to sort myself out and get back to athletics.”

Rather than return to heptathlons, she took up long jump – an event in which she was Australian under-14 champion.

“I chose long jump because I remembered enjoying it so much.

“When I came back to the sport, every little gain is addictive.

“I had really missed challenging yourself physically, emotionally and mentally all the time”.

Olympic-bound long jumper Chelsea Jaensch. Picture: Jono Searle.

Jaensch finished sixth at the 2012 national titles and moved to Brisbane a year later to train under renowned jumps coach Gary Bourne because she was worried she was “running out time”.

“(Moving to Brisbane) was daunting.

“I had to make new friends and settle into a new job, and a training squad that did things very differently to what I used to do.

“But I knew if I didn’t move I would regret it.”

Jaensch’s first season in Queensland “wasn’t very fruitful at all and I actually went two steps backwards”.

But she narrowly missed selection for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and won the national title last year.

“I thought ‘it’s pretty much at the Olympics now, I might as well keep going’.

“I just wanted to succeed – no one likes to fail.”

Backing her the whole way have been her parents, Craig and Jane, who still live in Virginia.

Her Adelaide-based partner of 18 months, Sam, has been her rock.

They were in Sydney for the Australian championships and to celebrate Jaensch’s Olympic selection at a gala dinner.

“I’m very, very lucky to have them in my life.

“It’s been a pretty hard slog having to support me over the last couple of years emotionally and just being there when it’s not been easy.

“My mum and dad cried absolute tears of joy – they were so happy.

“My partner Sam’s been amazing.

“Long-distance relationships are extremely tough but if you communicate and are both open, it’s actually quite powerful what you can achieve.”

Jaensch, the oldest of five siblings, can still remember the start of her athletics journey.

“All of us as kids were really handy runners.

“One day I saw an ad on the telly with Melinda Gainsford-Taylor advertising little athletics.

“We thought we could be pretty good at this.

“Mum piled us all in the van and down we went (to Salisbury Little Athletics Club).”

For Jaensch to make the Olympics all these years later is still sinking in.

“It’s going to be an absolutely amazing experience.

“I just want to give it a real crack and know I’ve left nothing behind when I walk out of that stadium.

“I’m so thankful people have believed in me and my dream, and helped me get this far.”

"Let's Go While We're Young"


That's an amazing achievement after 7 years absence from athletics! Her partner Sam is my daughters 'chiro' & he is a champion guy. Obviously a sound relationship helps, even if it is long distance, and whilst I don't know her, I wish Chelsea good luck at the Olympics.

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