It is now over 40 years since Australia won its last medal in an Olympic Games (OG) mens running event; that being Rick Mitchell who won a silver medal in the 400m at Moscow in 1980.
One of the biggest challenges during this pandemic for many of us has been the stillness.
Due to restrictions on our movement, many of us have been forced to spend plenty of time in the one spot.
But for many of our athletes who spend the year travelling the world pursuing their sporting dreams, the pandemic meant an opportunity to stay put and get some much-needed time with family.
Jess Hull, who has recently been selected as part of Australia’s Tokyo 2021 Olympic team, was in the United States when travel began to get tricky.
“I came back to Australia for the 5000-metre trials in February and my coach told me to get a mask for the travel,” said Hull.
“He had been travelling a few weeks earlier and had a sense that this was starting to kick off.”
That was Hull’s first inkling about what was to come. After the Australian trials, Hull returned to the United States where she hoped to finish her indoor season, but she soon realised that might not be possible.
“Once I realised it was starting to get serious and Scott Morrison urged us to come home, I decided to come home. I wanted to get home before I couldn’t make that decision anymore,” said Hull.
When Hull came home she was met by a very supportive family (after she completed quarantine), with a dad who was ahead of the curve and made sure that all her gym equipment was bought and set up for her when she arrived.
That meant Hull could continue her training, relatively uninterrupted and spend the most time she has spent with her family since she relocated to Oregon to take up an athletics scholarship.
After a couple of months at home, Hull began to travel again. She is now in Berlin where she will be stationed for about 15 days.
It is significantly different to what Hull would normally experience during the European season where she and her team would find a base and pop in and out for races.
Due to COVID, there hasn’t been an opportunity to find a base, so Hull is taking all her equipment with her everywhere she goes.
“You get funny looks from the other Europe-based athletes who live over here and don’t have to cart all their stuff to the meets,” says Hull.
“My coach told me to pack light, but that was tricky. I have two bags that I strategically pack, but I do have room for about ten pairs of running shoes.”
But for Hull, despite the interruption to her plans for this year, it was recently announced that she will make her Olympic debut in Tokyo in the 5000-metre run. Hull won the title at the national championships held earlier this year.
Because Hull is a national champion who has achieved a Tokyo 2020 qualifying result, she was automatically nominated to the AOC under the Athletics Australia nomination criteria and was recently selected into the team.
Her selection follows what has been a whirlwind of a year. Hull got engaged just before she left Australia.
“We got engaged right before I went to Monaco. I didn’t see that one coming, which is not like me at all. I am usually better at picking up on signals,” said Hull.
“It was the longest time we had spent together in quite a while, so I was really grateful that he didn’t change his mind.”
That trip to Monaco would also prove to be big for Hull.
Just weeks before her official selection in the team and in her first official race following the COVID lockdown, she broke an Australian record at the Monaco Diamond League meet clocking in at 14:43.8. Hull broke the existing record by almost four seconds and also smashed her former personal best of 15:00.32.
Hull also just finished in front of her training partner, Shannon Rowbury.
For Hull, this gives her plenty of confidence in the training routine she has implemented, despite the COVID-19 interruption.
“The biggest thing that it showed me is that my training partner Shannon and I have been doing the same workouts from two different hemispheres, and it worked,” said Hull.
“What I’m most excited about is that in the lead up to Tokyo we will hopefully be doing our preparation in the same place. There is real power in being able to train together after being able to achieve so much apart.”
“That’s the biggest kick on for next year. We achieved so much apart, so I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together next year.”