Veteran athletics writer RANDALL NORTHAM has no hesitation in recommending his choice as the SJA’s Sportswoman of the Year
Those of us lucky enough to have been at Hampden Park for the rainy last night of the Commonwealth Games athletics were witness to a race I regard as one of the best I have seen in nearly half a century of involvement with athletics, either as a reporter or publisher of books such as the International Track and Field Annual.
It involved a 40-year-old Jo Pavey from Exeter mixing it with three Kenyans, refusing to be intimidated and ending up with a bronze medal.
As Simon Turnbull wrote in The Independent, “Right from the off in the women’s 5,000m final, Pavey had the eye of the tiger about her. Even when the three Kenyans – Mercy Cherono, Janet Kisa and Margaret Muriuki – swept past with 600 metres to go, and then again with 200 metres remaining, the 40-year-old mother of two refused to buckle.
“Entering the home straight, she gritted her teeth, dug deep and plugged into the Hampden roar. She dug so deep she was unaware when she crossed the line that she had joined a select band of fortysomethings who have finished among the track-and-field medals at the Commonwealth Games.”
Ten days later Pavey was at the European championships in Zurich to win gold in the 10,000 metres. Two 40-year-old athletes have won medals at Commonwealth level – Rosemary Payne, silver in the discus in 1974, and Judy Oakes, gold in the 1998 shot put.
But Pavey is the oldest to win a European gold.
And for those two races, Pavey is the woman I will be voting for as the SJA’s Sportswoman of the Year.
Those who link their enjoyment of the sport to times and distances could point out that neither the 5,000 nor 10,000 were very fast, but for those, like me, who prefer a contest between athletes rather paced time trials, the Commonwealth Games race was elemental – Pavey just refused to give in.
And imagine the difficulties involved in juggling being a mother of two – her daughter Emily was just 10 months old when the Commonwealth Games came around, while Jacob was four – with training and preparation. Motherhood may make athletes stronger, but that doesn’t make fitting everything in any easier.
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