Born in Ballina inductee 34 Kerry Saxby-Junna, began her athletics career as a runner but switched to walking, very quickly finding her true calling to eventually win an amazing 27 national titles from 5000 metres to 20km over a period of 17 years.
The first of Kerry’s 23 Australian representations came in the Isle of Man at the World Walk Race Walking Cup in 1985 but it was in 1987 in Rome that Kerry was first at the forefront. In humid conditions, she led the 10km through half way in first appearance of women’s walking at the World Championships, before finishing second.
In 1989 Kerry competed in her second World Indoors in Budapest. Unlike the first when she was disqualified, there were no mistakes, winning in a new world record. When walking ceased to be part of the World Indoors in 1993, Kerry had been its most successful participant with a gold and two silvers.
In 1990 the women’s walk was finally introduced to the Commonwealth Games and in Auckland Kerry was supreme, winning by two minutes. She repeated four years later and took silver in 1998.
By 1999 the women’s walk had matured as an event, extended to 20km at Championship level. It seemed that Kerry was falling further behind her main overseas rivals but such thoughts underestimated a great competitive spirit. In the searing heat of Seville, seemingly against all odds and expectation Kerry finished a magnificent third at the World Championships. Her time - a quick 1:31.18 was surprise enough for the by-then 38 year old but she was even more shocked by the news of a medal – believing she had finished fourth.
In 2000, at her home Olympics in Sydney, by then a mother, she finished seventh. Kerry continued her career but in September after the Goodwill Games in Brisbane at 40 she closed her career – one that yielded 26 world records and world bests, nine major international medals and paved the way for the next generation of female walkers to enjoy similar opportunities to their male counterparts.
"The highlight of my career was probably when I got a telegram to say I had been selected to compete in Italy as a young athlete, and that drove me to push for the 1987 World Championships. I didn't expect to do half the things I did and I am honestly amazed at how much I have done," Saxby-Junna said.
"I obviously need to thank whoever it was that got me to AIS, it was the best thing for my career without question. I have to thank my coach Craig Hilliard and of course my parents who were there for me at a very young age."