The weird and wonderful world of Jana
The drama queen of athletics, Jana Pittman-Rawlinson, who once rose from her hospital bed as if Christ reborn and who also removed her breast implants as they were inhibiting her ability to run for Australia, now wants to become a Brit.
Soon to be re-married to her manager, coach and one-time husband Chris Rawlinson (they are just waiting for the divorce to come through, from each other…) Jana has indicated a desire to renew her stuttering career for Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympics.
Despite her love of melodrama, Jana is an undoubted talent.
She is twice a world 400m hurdles champion, a two-time Commonwealth Games champion and one of the few genuinely elite, world standard track stars this country has produced in decades.
Her dedication to the green and gold has never previously been questioned. Jana has missed as many major championships as she has competed in but all have been the result of legitimate injury battles.
After spending $13,000 on breast implants, she earlier this year chose to have the procedure reversed, saying, “every time I raced I panicked about whether I was letting my country down, all for my own vanity … I don’t want to short change Australia.”
Odd, but hardly the sentiment of a dispirited Aussie on the verge of jumping ship to Mother England.
So is this simply another in a long line of attention seeking stunts or will we actually see Jana line up on the blocks at London 2012 in a British uniform?
The outrage from the Australian sport loving public will be loud and predictable.
The likes of Raelene Boyle have already criticised the proposed defection, arguing Jana has received in excess of $500,000 in Australian sports funding over her career, including several long spells off the track with injury where she failed to run for her country.
Jana has often remarked her career has not been a money spinner and finances do appear to be a considerable factor in the decision.
Great Britain’s Olympic funding is wildly in excess of anything on offer from Australia and with Sebastian Coe rumoured to have personally approached Rawlinson about a switch to the UK, it is a safe bet Jana would be well compensated.
While many will shake their head and utter ‘good riddance’ should Jana make the switch, Australia should show caution in condemning such a move.
Surly and sullen he may be but we still celebrated Dale Begg Smith’s Winter Olympic efforts, a Canadian who is believed to have spent as little as 48 hours in Australia in the last five years.
The Australian government even intervened late last year to change citizenship laws to reduce the mandatory time overseas athletes must spend in Australia before donning the green and gold.
Based on the new ‘gifted athlete’ condition, it allowed Russian born and raised Tatiana Borodulina to compete in speed skating for Australia at Vancouver despite falling short of the previous four year residency requirement.
Jarmila Groth played Venus Williams at Wimbledon overnight.
From Slovakia, now married to an Australian and in the country since she was 18, the now 23 year old is a fully fledged Aussie and receives the same crowd support as any other.
Indeed, between Groth, Jelena Dokic & Anastasia Rodionova, our Fed Cup team relies heavily on Sam Stosur and Alicia Molik to provide home grown talent.
Australia have its best track and certainly field team in years and the absence of a two-time world champion would be a significant loss.
However, Jana has lived in the UK for four years and not competed for Australia since the World Championships in Osaka, 2007, while her theatrics on the international stage have long been a source of frustration within the athletics community.
Married, or soon to be, to a UK citizen, she is entitled to compete for England and some would argue Australia would be better off without her.
Regardless, the point is Australia cannot have it both ways, whatever Jana’s eventual decision.
We readily accept foreign athletes and revel in their success, admiring their gumption to move across the world to fulfil their sporting dreams. Think Tatiana Grigorieva, Kostya Tszyu and countless others.
On the rare occasion an athlete chooses to defect from Australia, even one as strange and as dividing of opinion as Jana, we can sound our disappointment but should hold off on judgement.