My name is Jessica Thornton (Jess, Jessca, JRKET), I’m 19 years old and I am a track and field 200 and 400 metre athlete with the occasional 100 metres run as well. I am in my first year of university at University of NSW Kensington, studying the Bachelor of Life Sciences (in the hope to transfer into the Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics).
The reason for this degree is because I have two passions/goals; running for myself and my country, and the second is to cook. I have always wanted to become a chef but with the expectations of my training schedule, I had to re-think this. I thought of food and sport mixed together and nutrition popped straight into my mind. Since then I have added a third passion to the list and that is to become a Nutritionist and Dietician (with eventually opening my own business).
I live off the motto Never Give Up (NGU) and I strive to become a better person than I already am (in everything I do). I like to respect others and follow good morals and values which I am grateful to have received from both my parents. Winning for me isn’t everything and that’s why I am able to pick myself up easily if something goes wrong. Making teams is my goal and anything after that is just a bonus. This being the reason I try my very best and continue to push myself to limits I thought were never possible or achievable at such a young age. I try to make a stand and be a good role model for others to inspire to be like.
Now to my career. To this date, I have represented my state clubs (Randwick Botany Little A’s, South Sydney Senior Club and Illawong Senior Club), NSW State Team and Australia in many different events. 2014 was the year it all began, representing Australia for the first time and for my first international competition. I competed at the second Summer Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, winning Gold in the 400m (fastest youth time in the world of 52.50 in 2014). I then went on to represent Asia-Pacific (Asian and Oceania regions) at the Continental Cup in Marrakech, Morocco, in the 4 x 400m relay team with four other Female Australian athletes (3 other runners and 1 reserve). At this competition I was lucky enough to have become the youngest athlete to represent this team in 37 years (since Debbie Wells in 1977).
I then came back home and after my short break I ran at the NSW All Schools Championships in Sydney for my last time in October 2014. I was able to achieve another mind-blowing result winning the triple – 100m, 200m, and 400m – for the fourth year in a row. However, with unfortunate events and many factors contributing I became severely injured with a stress fracture to the bottom of my tibia bone (in the lower leg). This put me out for the entire 2014/15 season. How devastating that was, I pushed through and Never Gave Up (NGU).
The next season of 2015/16 couldn’t have come any slower and with that whole year off of rehab and a good off-season training, I started with a bang. Running my first 200m in over 12 months I was 0.01 off the qualifying time for World Junior Championships (U20’s) and a personal best time (however I had a +2.0m/s head wind so I took that into consideration). Even with being injured I was still the third fastest time for the women’s 400m. With this, the women’s 4 x 400m relay team had qualified for the Rio Olympic Games and that was definitely a challenge I was ready to grasp. Although World Juniors is my priority for 2016, a Rio relay is in sight. But with Nationals approaching, the decision to run in Canberra in the 200m was made and coming second (first loss of the season) in a time of 23.26 seconds. A massive personal best and only 0.06 off the Rio individual qualifying time. This time was also a qualifying standard for World Juniors.
Australian Junior Athletics Championships in Perth arrived, being the qualification meet for the World Juniors in Poland. I won both the 200 and 400 metres and with the schedule being so small I had to choose between the two. I went with the 400m and will also be apart of the women’s 4 x 400m relay. With qualification for Poland done and I made the team, the next step was to run in the 400m at the Australian Open Championships in Sydney, the trials for the 2016 Rio Olympics. I came second in this event with a new personal best of 52.33 seconds and only 0.13 off the individual time for Rio. No way did I ever imagine myself at the 2016 Olympic Games (at the age of 18) but with individual times being so close in reach I was in shock and couldn’t believe it.
Last year (2016) I competed in the World Juniors (U20’s) Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland representing Australia in the 400m and the 4 x 400m relay team. I was also fortunate to be selected for the Rio Olympic Games as part of the 4 x 400m relay and was so close to qualifying for an individual in the 200m and 400m. Making the final of the 4 x 400m relay, the first time for Australia since 2000, was such an experience.
I look forward to competing at an international level again. I certainly hope you can join me as I experience what lays ahead.