MELBOURNE’S Jemima Montag will turn 22 this Saturday, and she already has the best possible present to celebrate – a confirmed spot in the Australian Olympic Team for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist and top 10 finisher at last year’s world championships earned automatic qualification to make her Olympics debut in July by winning the women’s race at the 2020 Oceania and Australian 20km Race Walking Championships in Adelaide last Sunday.
In warm conditions, Puerto Rico’s Rachelle De Orbeta led a strong field of 12 for the first 5km, before being overtaken by Montag, Queensland’s Katie Hayward and Canberra’s Beki Smith.
Montag and Hayward remained neck and neck until the final stretch, when Montag – a flag-bearer for Australia at the 2017 Maccabiah Games – drew upon her racing experience to edge past the 19-year-old.
TOKYO BOUND ????????????????????A huge congratulations to our 2017 Maccabiah flagbearer Jemima Montag who has secured a spot on the…
She crossed the line in 1 hour, 33 minutes and 15 seconds, just 45 seconds ahead of Hayward, while Smith came third and New Zealander Alana Barber fourth.
Before stepping onto the winners’ podium, Montag said, “It’s a surreal feeling.
“A big childhood dream, since I was about seven, has come true – my first Olympics! So it’s a brilliant early birthday present, and a huge relief.”
In terms of tactics, Montag explained, “Today was more about position for me than time, so the pace was very conservative … which really allowed me to stay calm.
“Toward the end I saw my moment, and tried to kick home.”
Montag only had good words for her friend Hayward. “We are great teammates and training partners – the fantastic thing is that there are always two to three spots on the team, so we can push each other to improve, which is really exciting.”
By nightfall, Montag’s Instagram profile was updated with the message “Headed to the 2020 Olympics” and a post showing a photo of her as a fresh-faced Little Athletics kid, next to a photo taken last Sunday.
When asked about that, she told The AJN, “I want to take this moment to pause as I stand on top of the mountain I’ve been climbing for years, to reflect and extend gratitude to everyone who’s played a role.
“Soon it’ll be on to the next peak.
“[This result] means I can switch my focus from selection to things like adapting to the hot and humid climate that we’re expecting in Japan, making my technique as smooth as possible and accumulating some quality training over the next five months, to hopefully produce a special performance.”
In its weekly newsletter, Maccabi Athletics Club congratulated Montag, expressing how “the club and the Jewish community is so thrilled and proud!”
Maccabi also congratulated club member Jason Kozica, 32, who came 13th out of 20 in the men’s race in Adelaide.