After nine months on the sidelines, reigning world champion Jana Rawlinson made her much anticipated return to the track last night, finishing second in the 400m hurdles at the European Athletics Festival in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Rawlinson set off strongly and held the lead for the majority of the race, however turning into the home straight, world championship bronze medallist Anna Jesien caught the 25-year-old, and with the support of the raucous home crowd behind her, Jesien overtook with 80 metres to go, stretching away to win in 54.86.
A spent Rawlinson didn’t have the endurance in her legs to catch the Polish runner, and after stuttering into the last couple of hurdles, she crossed the line in 55.94.
Although 55.94 is well outside her usual high standards and three and half seconds off her personal best, it’s not a time to be disheartened by. Her first two races of last year were also in the 55’s, and with less than seven weeks to go until her first-round 400m hurdles heat at the Beijing Olympics on August 17, last night’s effort was an encouraging return.
Although there are technical areas she feels she needs to work on, Rawlinson was fairly content with her first race since September.
“After such a long time since my last race it was a great feeling to get out on the track again, but it certainly wasn’t a great race in terms of my execution,” explained Rawlinson.
“I messed up a few hurdles and have a couple of other areas of my race that need a lot of work but I am realistic about what I can achieve after such a long time between races.
“I am looking forward to working hard between now and my next planned race in Rome (July 11), and taking some of the learning’s from this race into the next one.”
Rawlinson initially had surgery in January to remove cartilage on the second toe of her right foot. She was expected to return to competition in May however delayed her return to the track after suffering complications to her injured toe.
With the toe and related injuries still causing her grief in early June, Rawlinson accepted medical advice to stop running all together for ten days and underwent intensive treatment from Australian Institute of Sport physiotherapist Ebony Scase.
She resumed training two weeks ago, and although the toe passed the test last night, Rawlinson is still cautiously taking the injury day-by-day.
“My toe faired quite well, but as it has been throughout the whole injury, it is a day to day prospect so I will see how I wake up tomorrow and take it from there.”
Rawlinson’s night on the track didn’t end once she had crossed the finish line. Renowned for her strong work ethic and desire for perfection, Rawlinson ventured over to the warm up track after her race to complete a full training session, a move which was well received by her husband and coach Chris Rawlinson.
“What most impressed me was not the race, but Jana’s commitment after when she admitted she wasn’t happy with the execution and wanted to get back on the track and keep running.
“After all the work that Jana has done off and on the track it was just great to see her out there running again. It is early days, and there is plenty of work to be done, but all in all I was happy in the performance given the lead up.”