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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Athletics Australia’s Michelle Jenneke own goal needs fixing

Athletics Australia’s Michelle Jenneke own goal needs fixing

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Interesting take on the issue of the funding cut to Michelle Jenneke.

Athletics Australia’s Michelle Jenneke own goal needs fixing

By Tom Heenan
Monash University
New Daily
7th October 2016

Michelle Jenneke has had her funding cut. Photo: Getty

Michelle Jenneke is Australia’s most marketable athlete.

Yes, the likes of Olympic gold medallists Sally Pearson and Jarred Tallent have certainly out-performed her on the big stage.

But in terms of billboards, social media and cut-through into mainstream society there is only one winner.

That’s why it is so puzzling that Jenneke was not included in the 62 athletes to receive funding under the National Athletic Support Structure in the lead-up to the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

That is the same Commonwealth Games that traditionally struggles to draw big crowds – and that the Gold Coast is hosting.

Athletics Australia will likely justify their decision on Jenneke’s poor Rio Games, where she failed to get out of the heats in the 100m hurdles.

But this is a decision they will regret.

It is still Australian sport’s great under-performer, despite a wealth of government funding.

You see, Jenneke is not just a big deal in Australia.

She shot to global prominence at the 2012 IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona despite finishing fifth in the 100m hurdles.

Her jiggling pre-race dance routine caught the eye and went viral on YouTube, clocking more than 19 million views within a week.

It featured on America’s The Tonight Show and within a year, Jenneke had appeared in Sports Illustrated.

The Jenneke brand
As her profile grew rapidly, so did her social media following.

Over 413,000 people follow her on Instagram – more than the likes of Australian sporting legends Michael Clarke, Tim Cahill and model Jesinta Campbell.

Of course, it’s only social media, but to put Jenneke’s following into perspective is to look at Pearson’s.

She is a star performer, of that there is no question. But Pearson has ‘just’ 44,000 Instagram followers.

It’s a figure that demonstrates how popular Jenneke is – and famous brands have been quick to recognise that.

Puma signed her up to plug their brand and Coca-Cola came calling, too.

If you watched any of the Olympics, you are sure to remember Jenneke’s ads for the soft drink company.

She was one of just 79 international athletes who appeared in the company’s Gold promotion around the Rio Games.

Endorsement deals like the aforementioned have her current net worth estimated to be in the vicinity of $3 million – far in excess of other Australian athletes.

Rio disappointment
Indeed, her track performances have not kept pace with her galloping profile.

She flopped at the Rio Games in the absence of Pearson – but it is worth remembering she is the current Australian champion.

At 21, she finished fifth in the 2014 Commonwealth Games final and the only Aussie to ever run the 100m hurdles quicker than her is Pearson.

Athletics Australia head coach Craig Hilliard hit out at Jenneke post-Games, hinting at a potential rift.

“It’s simple. If you are going to be half-baked at doing something, why are we investing in you,” Hilliard pondered out loud.

They were comments that ignored Jenneke’s obvious potential.

And the decision to cut her funding is made all the more perplexing by the fact Australian athletics isn’t exactly brimming with marketable talent.

The team returned from Rio with a meagre silver and bronze – both won in road walks.

The Commonwealth Games
But Jenneke, with her global profile, is ideally suited to market the 2018 Commonwealth Games and reinvigorate athletics in this country.

She is also more than the sum total of her vast social media followers.

Jenneke is studying mechatronics at Sydney University and in 2012 she interrupted her studies and athletics schedule, undertaking volunteer work in Tanzanian orphanages.

This side of Jenneke should be showcased come Games time, when the event will be competing for space in Australia’s crowded sports media marketplace.

Just last week, Jenneke represented Sydney University at the Australian University Games.

She finished second in the long jump and won the 100 metre hurdles in a dawdle.

Jenneke immediately signalled her intention to return to serious training.

Athletics Australia should meet her half way.

After all, they need Jenneke more than she needs them.


I wasn't aware until I read this that Sally Pearson had parted ways with her coach. Not sure being self-trained is the right move though.

Hurdler Michelle Jenneke to link with Sally Pearson’s former Gold Coast coach Ashley Mahoney

By Emma Greenwood
Gold Coast Bulletin
8th October 2016

Michelle Jenneke has linked with Sally Pearson’s former mentor in a bid to develop her full potential as an elite hurdler. Picture: Phil Hillyard

MICHELLE Jenneke has linked with Sally Pearson’s former coach Ashley Mahoney in a bid to realise her full potential as an elite hurdler.

Jenneke had her Athletics Australia funding cut this week amid claims she arrived in Rio de Janeiro out of shape and performed below her best at the Olympics.

But the 23-year-old had already made changes to her program, linking with Mahoney and visiting the Gold Coast last week to train with the coach.

Jenneke, who is studying electrical engineering at Sydney Uni­versity, will remain based in the Harbour City but will travel regularly to the Gold Coast to be mentored by ­Mahoney before continuing to follow the program he devises when at home.

“The adjustment will have its challenges as my time will be split between Sydney where I live and study and the Gold Coast where I will train with Ash,’’ Jenneke said. “However with the support of my family, I am sure we will make it work.’’

A semi-finalist in the 100m hurdles at last year’s world championships in Beijing, Jenneke was unable to reach the same heights in Rio and decided it was time to make changes to her program.

Regarded as a rising star of the sport just a year ago, Jenneke faced a torrent of criticism after Rio and again this week after the revelation her funding had been cut.

But her determination to return to her best has seen her leave junior mentor Mick Zisti, who she thanked for his help over their more than a decade together.

“After 13 years with coach Mick Zisti, I have decided to change coaches and commence training with Ash Mahoney,’’ Jenneke said.

“Mick was a great junior coach and I am delighted that I was able to be his first Olympic athlete but it is time to make some changes to ensure I continue to develop as an athlete and continue to love what I do.

“It has been sad to leave my squad and I will miss training with them but they remain part of my athletics family and I am sure I will see plenty of them at the track.’’

Mahoney guided Pearson from late 2014 until this year when the London Olympic champion decided to coach herself after missing the Rio Games with injury.

Pearson’s departure has opened the door for Jenneke to link with ­Mahoney, whose scientific approach to training she enjoys.

“I am very excited about the next chapter training with Ash,’’ said Jenneke, who is renowned for a colourful warm-up routine.

“I have worked with him before on international teams and he is a very technical and intuitive coach and we are like minded in our ­approach to training and share a similar passion for the sport.’’

The pair’s first challenge will be the domestic season where Jenneke will try to edge back towards her personal best of 12.82sec in a bid to qualify for the 2017 world titles.

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