Australian hurdler Michelle Jenneke has paid tribute to her mentor after legendary Australian athletics coach Gary Bourne died this week.
Bourne, 68, was the former president of Queensland Athletics and is a life member of Athletics Australia.
Australia’s most successful horizontal jump coach, Bourne was the mastermind behind Australian records set by Olympic medalists Mitchell Watt and Bronwyn Thompson, World Championship gold and Carlee Beattie’s world record, and guided Henry Frayne to Commonwealth silver, among many other achievements.
Jenneke was one of many athletes who benefited from Bourne’s guidance, posting a touching tribute to her “wonderful husband” on Instagram.
“Rest in peace, Gary. “I feel incredibly lucky to have had this amazing man as my coach and mentor,” she wrote.
“He was more than just a great coach, he was wise, funny, kind and caring and we will all miss him very much.” “Thanks for everything, Gaz.”
Australian hurdler Michelle Jenneke has paid tribute to her mentor Gary Bourne (pictured together), who died this week aged 68
Jenneke described Bourne as “an amazing man” who was both a close friend and one of her coaches
Thanks to Bourne, Jenneke is back on the world stage, where she reached the semi-finals of the World Championships this year
Athletics Australia president Jane Flemming said the entire athletics community in Australia would be affected by the loss of Bourne.
“The death of Gary Bourne is a huge loss to Australian athletics,” Flemming said.
“In the world of athletics, Gary was considered a diving guru.
“He was head coach of the National Jumps Center at QAS, but was more than just a coach.” He was also a mentor, educator and role model, helping countless athletes rise to the highest echelons of the Olympic, World and Commonwealth rankings made possible.
“His dedication, selflessness, unwavering passion and dedication transformed athletes into champions and nurtured individuals into outstanding human beings.”
“Gary’s legacy will forever resonate in the hearts of the Queensland and Australian athletics community, reminding us that the greatness of a coach lies not just in records broken, but in lives touched and inspired.”
“He leaves a void in Australian athletics that will be difficult to fill, but his influence will continue to inspire generations in the lead-up to Brisbane 2032 and beyond.”
Jenneke became a household name in 2012 for her “shaky” pre-race routine
Jenneke struggled with an injury at the 2016 Olympics, but made a big comeback at the 2022 World Athletics Championships
Jenneke struggled to shake off her reputation as a dancer before the race but is now in top form
Jenneke, known for her viral pre-race dance at the 2012 Junior World Championships, faced challenges after the 2016 Rio Games.
In Rio she finished sixth in the 100m hurdles and her season ended abruptly. Australian athletics coach Craig Hilliard criticized her form and suggested distractions may have contributed to her performance.
“That’s something I need to discuss with her and go through with her and her program.” “She certainly didn’t arrive here in the shape that she should have,” Hilliard said in 2016.
But Jenneke hit back, saying it was an injury, not poor preparation, that cost her in Rio.
“I came to the Olympics camp in great shape and I happened to get an injury while I was there,” she said.
“I didn’t do well at the Olympics, but that had nothing to do with me not doing well.”
“Craig’s comments were unfair, especially coming from someone who knew exactly what the situation actually was.”
In 2017, Jenneke competed in a World Championships for the second time, reaching the semifinals and placing seventh with a time of 13.250. She represented Australia at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and secured fourth place with a time of 13:07.
The coronavirus lockdowns meant that Jenneke’s career was put on hold until she recently came out of the starting blocks with her fastest times ever
Now Jenneke hopes to qualify for the Paris Olympics and reach an elusive hurdles final
After a break partly enforced by Covid shutdowns, Jenneke made a comeback in 2022, impressively reaching the semifinals of the World Championships with her fastest time in seven years: 12.84 in the heats and even faster, 12.66 in Semifinals. Final.
In 2023, she secured a place at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, where she was named one of four captains to lead Australia.
She achieved the championship by winning the 100m hurdles at the 2023 Chemist Warehouse Australian Track and Field Championships in Brisbane with a blistering time of 12.77, defeating Celeste Mucci and Hannah Jones.
Jenneke reached the semi-finals in Budapest together with her compatriot Celeste Mucci. She finished fifth in that heat, not fast enough to reach the final.
She is now determined to find her way into the Australian Olympic team for Paris 2024.