The Australian sporting community was saddened today by the tragic news of the passing over the weekend of 46-year-old Jackie Fairweather, a former world champion triathlete, Commonwealth games marathon medallist and leading sports administrator, firstly with triathlon and more recently with the Australian Sports Commission and Australian Institute of Sport.
Jacquilyn Louise Gallagher was born on 10th November 1967 in Perth and it was not long before she was involved in sport as a little athlete in 1979 while living in Sydney. During these early years she was coached by Stan Hamley (Hornsby little athletics) and Con Hartgers. She had early success when in December 1984 at the Australian All Schools, she placed third in the under-19 3000m in an impressive time of 10:11.63. She relocated to Brisbane in the mid '80s and within a few years (now aged 21) was running times of 4:26 (1500m), 9:25 (3000m) and 36:14 (10,000m). She was also a talented cross country runner, winning numerous national medals.
Away from the track, she was busy completing her studies, earning a Bachelor of Human Movement Studies (First Class Honours) from University of Qld in 1990 and the next year while in the USA with a Master of Science (Exercise Physiology and Cardiac Rehabilitation) from Eastern Illinios University.
A national level cyclist , while in the US she had been working on her swimming. In 1992, Brett Sutton, a leading triathlon coach on the Gold Coast pestered Gallagher to leave Brisbane to traing with his squad. She eventually relented and joined Sutton and trained along side Rina Hill. Her professional triathlon career would last until 2000. Ironically although she was now concentrating on triathlon, her running, under Sutton, started to flourish. In July 1992, she ran 1:14.38 in a half-marathon, then in December she won her first triathlon race in Canberra and four days later she won the Zatopek 10,000m track race in a sensational 33:14.16. During 1992 she had competed in a staggering 42 races. In early 1993 she made her first national team representing Australia at the 1993 World Cross Country Championships in Spain.
Over the next eight years Jackie complied a superb triathlon career record, which included representing Australia at eight World Triathlon Championships (winning one gold and three silvers). In 1996 she become the only person to win the World Triathlon and Duathlon titles in the one year. She won two World duathlon titles (1996 & 1999), four National triathlon titles (2 Olympic distance, 2 sprint), three national duathlon titles and four Australian Triathlete of the year awards.
In 1996 she was jointly named with Susie O'Neill as the Australian Sportswoman of the year.
In 2000 she missed selection in the triathlon for the Sydney Olympics. There were five Australian world champions chasing three places. Gallagher trained the house down in the leadup to trials, but pushed it too much and was run down at the trials, placing seventh, one of her lowest places in nearly 100 races. She was devestated and would later rate this as her ‘lowest personal sporting moment’. She was not in Sydney for the Olympics, but working in an elite gym in California, a place she spent most of the Australian winters.
She then retired from triathlon and remerged in athletics winning the Australian half-marathon title in August 2001, placing sixth in Zatopek in December and make her marathon debut in Boston in 2002 a stunning 2:35.46. After nearly 10 years she returned to the national athletics team when she was named in the marathon for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, in a team which was co-managed by Matt Favier, who 10 years later would be her boss at the AIS. In Manchester, Jackie claimed bronze in an Australian clean-sweep of the medals.
Under the guidance of coach Dick Telford, over the next few years she ran eight marathons, no slower than 2:37.16, but with a best of 2:32.40 in Nagoya in March 2004.
Her endurance interests next moved to mountain and ultra running. She competed at the 2005 world mountain running championships, where she placed 12th. In 2008 and 2009 she won the Australian Ultra Running titles over distances of 50km and 100km respectively in times of 3:19.12 and 7:48.51.
On 21 March 2010, Jackie ran her 100,000th kilometre. She has recorded over 100,000 kilometres covered on a bicycle and had swum over 9000 kilometers. This was data that Gallagher had complied herself, as she had recorded every training session she ever did, commencing in the early ‘80s. She described herself as a ‘stats girl’.
During her triathlon career, Fairweather, held numerous postions in administration, including: Triathlon Australia national elite selector, athlete representative International Triathlon Union (ITU) Athletes Committee (1998-2002), ITU Women’s Committee member (1997-98), Triathlon Australia Board Member (first ever athletes representative) (1998 – 2001) and various positions on triathlon and running club committees since 1988.
In 2001, she was appointed the inaugural AIS triathlon head coach a positions she would hold until 2005. She continued to give back to her sport and in recent years she held the position of Performance Manager in the AIS Performance Excellence Unit, where her sports portfolio included: swimming (para swimming), canoeing – sprint & slalom (para canoe), surf lifesaving and netball. She had previouly worked with athletics.
In 2004, she married Sydney Olympic archer, Simon Fairweather and recently celebreated 10 years of marriage.
Gallagher had a passion for fast cars and owned a 1979 Porsche 911 named Priscilla. Her hobbies and interests included watching movies, travelling and meeting people, collecting gadgets, good red wine, public speaking, chocolate, working with younger athletes and funnily enough... driving fast cars!
David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall for Athletics NSW