It wasn’t even initially on her radar but Tamworth sprint queen Emma Klasen is a spike away from representing Australia at the Youth Olympics.
After winning gold in the under-18 200m at the Melanesian Regional Championships in Vanuatu, the Calrossy student is playing a very nervous waiting game as selectors whittle the around 20 athletes that have fulfilled the qualification requirements down to 12 to compete in Buenos Aires.
“I’ve done everything required of me to make the Junior Olympics team,” Klasen said.
The requirements included winning a medal at the Nationals in either the under-18s or under-20s (Klasen won bronze), win at the Melanesian championships and run a qualifying time, which Klasen did at Blacktown before Christmas with what she described as “the best run I’ve ever felt”.
She is the only athlete for the 200m that has met the requirements, and is hoping the fact that she is also adept at the 100m, although she hasn’t met the standards for that, will work in her favour.
But it will depend on what events the selectors want to take athletes for.
Regardless, to be in the mix is a huge accomplishment. Klasen is still only 15, and it was only when she ran the qualifying time the seed of competing at the Youth Olympics was planted.
The Melanesian championships were her first time competing overseas, and running for her country, and an “incredible” experience.
“It was a dream come true to represent the green and gold,” she said.
Winning gold was a bonus, and standing on the top of the podium with the national anthem being played something Klasen will always savour.
She got to experience that twice after running the second leg for the victorious 4x100m open relay team.
Her 200m time wasn’t her fastest but Klasen was happy with her run, as was her coach Michael Dooley.
“My coach was happy with my progress and happy with how I handled the heat and the final,” she said.
The humidity was like nothing she had experienced before, she said, and added another layer to the challenge.
Klasen won her heat, but with the heats and finals only an hour-and-a-half- apart eased down a bit towards the end to conserve her energy for the final.
Going into the final she knew her biggest rival would be the other Australian competitor.
They were drawn beside each other with Klasen in lane five and the other girl, who had beaten her at nationals, in lane four.
“I got the better start. I just felt powerful coming out of the blocks,” Klasen said.
It put her in a good position for the bend, which is the strongest part of her race.
Then it was a matter of just holding on – all the while knowing that the straight was her rivals strength.
“She has the most amazing stride,” she said.
“When it came to the 100 straight I was probably a metre in front.”
“Then that inner voice kicked in saying ‘keep going’.”
That last 20m push to the line is something she has been working hard on since the nationals and she credited training partners Mitchell Henderson and Mitchell Reading for driving her on.
“They push me to the end,” she said.
She was also inspired by watching a couple of days of the athletics competition at the recent Commonwealth Games.
“I got to see them compete in the green and gold and I knew I was going to be doing that in a couple of weeks,” Klasen said.
She wasn’t the only northern athlete to medal at the championships.
Armidale’s Stuart Geddes won gold in the open men’s 800m, silver in the open mens 3000m, producing a strong finish to hold off the chasers,and bronze in the open 3000m steeplechase after clocking his second best time to date.
Amelia Mazzei meanwhile ran personal bests to win silver in the para 100m and 400m.
Mazzei also competed in the able-bodied 200m and was awarded a special para medal for her efforts.
William Vince-Moin and Trent Low also competed and performed strongly.