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Michelle Jenneke’s two very different passions

Saturday, 1 July 2017 | Jake Stevens

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The 100m hurdles is a fairly straightforward event. Eight athletes in eight lanes race over ten hurdles to see who can reach the finish line first.

What is not exactly straightforward is the study of mechatronic engineering.

But it’s these two pursuits that Australian hurdler Michelle Jenneke finds herself deeply involved in.

The Rio Olympian is set to compete at her second Summer Universiade in Taipei this August whilst balancing her studies at The University of Sydney.

Mechatronic engineering is the technology behind robotics and autonomous systems, automated manufacturing and intelligent microprocessor-based products.

“The degree is all coming along really well,” Jenneke said as she packed her bags for a European racing stint.

“I’ve got exams going on right now so I’ve been studying hard for that, but at the moment I’m really enjoying the course.

“At times it can be quite challenging – it’s not an easy degree that I’ve chosen but I really enjoy what I’m doing.”

For the next little while, Jenneke’s books might have to take a back seat as she gears up for a European racing campaign, a possible world championships run and the World University Games all within the next two months.

“I have one race in France and two in Switzerland up next,” said Jenneke who landed in Europe earlier this week.

“At the moment I’m really just trying to race well and I think if I put together a good race, some quick times and the [world championships] qualifier will just happen.”

Jenneke’s most recent race was in Townville where she was just pipped at the line by WA hurdler and world championships aspirant Brianna Beahan in 13.10 and 13.16 respectively, both just outside the nominated 12.98 seconds required to secure a place in the upcoming world championships.

“There are still roll-down spots available for the world championships and I’m still in this mix for one of those so hopefully if I don’t get the qualifier I might still get to race in London,” Jenneke explained.

“I was actually really happy with that performance the other day – for where I’m at it was actually a really good run.

“13.16 in winter in Australia is pretty awesome for me, so hopefully I’ll be able to do even better once I get overseas and into some bigger races.”

Two years ago, a joyful Jenneke captured one of Australia’s five athletics medals at 2015 Summer Universiade in Gwangju, claiming the bronze medal in 12.94 (+0.1), finishing behind winner Danielle Williams of Jamaica (12.78) and Nina Morozova of Russia (12.84).

“I’m really excited for the next couple of months,” Jenneke said at the time.

As for Taipei, Jenneke is looking forward to the challenge of racing once again in the green and gold as a part of a 49-strong athletics section heading to the Games.

One of nine University of Sydney track and field athletes heading to the Games, Jenneke will have a team within a team as she shares the experience with fellow Rio Olympian Jenny Blundell as well as 2015 world championships representative Nick Hough who also study at Sydney.

“I’m in my 5th year of the course,” Jenneke said

“It’s taken me a little bit longer to complete. At the moment I’m doing two subjects per semester as it’s a little bit of an easier load because I’m off racing around the country and internationally – I’m just working my way through it slowly.”

 “Sydney University have been really great, they are very accommodating. I was able to message my lecturers and co-ordinators saying that I was going to be away and they gave me a good indication of some work that I’ll be able to complete while I am away and what sort of things I’ll need to catch up on when I get back.”

 
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