Victoria’s Jemima Montag earned herself an early birthday present on Sunday, booking her place on the Australian team for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Montag, who turns 20 on Thursday, rounded out a consistent season, her first competing in the open ranks with a silver medal at the 2018 Australian 20km Race Walking Championships and Oceania Championships in Adelaide.
An emotional Montag crossed the finish line on Memorial Avenue knowing exactly what she had achieved, hot on the heels of Beki Smith (NSW) who finished first.
“It was an incredible feeling,” Montag explained. “When there’s three spots in the team and you know that the first two are officially in, it’s tricky when you’re sitting in third with 250m to go mentally. It’s like ‘do I knuckle down or, do I stay in this safe zone?’
“After that last corner I just decided that I don’t want to finish knowing I haven’t given it 110 percent. I just want to give it a go and if I die, at least I’ve tried.”
Montag was just eight-years-old the last time that race walking was included in the Commonwealth Games, something not lost on the 2014 IAAF World Race Walking Cup and 2015 IAAF World Youth Championships representative.
“There’s a lot of friends and family, that because it’s at the Gold Coast they’ll come and watch which will be amazing,” Montag said. “It’s a great birthday present.”
Montag began her first season out of juniors with determination, impressive with her third place (1h34m18s) finish behind New Zealand’s national record holder Alana Barber and Australia’s Claire Tallent at the Open Women’s 20km Race Walk Invitational at Melbourne’s Faulkner Park in December. That time was within the Commonwealth Games qualifying standard of 1:36:00. January saw Montag spend time at the Australian Institute of Sport, training with a strong group of international and Australian walkers. On Sunday, Montag put everything together.
“A little bit of self-belief, great preparation and then when preparation meets opportunity that’s when good things happen,” Montag said.
Barber will soon join Montag in Melbourne in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games, the pair sharing coach Brent Vallance.
“We’ll train together for a few weeks in March which will be great to have someone who’s also going to the Commonwealth Games to train with,” said Montag. “It’s so soon. We don’t have much time really, so I’ll keep knuckling down and enjoy the first senior team. It will be great.”