KERRY SAXBY-JUNNA, competing in the womens 20km walk at the Australian Championships in Brisbane in 2001.
KERRY SAXBY-JUNNA, competing in the womens 20km walk at the Australian Championships in Brisbane in 2001.

Saxby-Junna puts Olympic Games pain behind her

THREE-time Olympian Kerry Saxby-Junna has revealed she was too embarrassed by her performances at Barcelona and Atlanta to feel worthy of carrying the Olympic flame through her former home town of Ballina.

The 46-year-old former Olympic walker told The Northern Star yesterday that she declined to be part of the torch relay that passed around the country ahead of the Sydney Games in 2000.

“I didn’t put my name down to carry the x torch when it was going through Ballina,” she said.

“The reason was I felt embarrassed about my performances in the ’92 and ’96 Olympics compared to other international events.

“The Olympics are the only major events I didn’t medal in.

“I thought to myself that I performed so badly, I was embarrassed and didn’t want to carry the flame around.”

However, after eight years of reflection, Saxby-Junna said she was ready to take the torch and run proudly in front of her two children, Christian, 10 and Renee, 5. She has been named among 80 Australians who will carry the Olympic torch when the relay passes through Canberra in April en route to Beijing.

“It’s something I’m looking forward to now. It will probably be good to catch up with some of the older athletes I haven’t seen in a while,” she said.

“I don’t know who I’m passing it to or the landmarks I’m running past but I guess it will be one of the final steps in my career.

“I won’t be doing too much more, I just stay fit now.

“I was the world record-holder in the ’80s and that’s why, when I didn’t come out of the Olympics with a medal, I wasn’t happy with it.

“When everyone talks about sporting achievements they measure it in Olympic medals.

“I was ranked in the world top three for over 10 years and won medals at every other major event.

“When you put all that time into training and perform miserably, I thought it was a failure so that was the main reason I didn’t nominate.

“But this time I was actually contacted by the Olympic people who asked me if I’d be interested and I thought it would be good. Probably more so that my two kids can see their mum carry the Olympic torch.” Saxby-Junna said her Olympic disappointment was eased when she finished seventh in Sydney as a 39-year-old.

“I was among the top performers in Sydney given that I was nearly 40,” she said. Sidelined

Race walking was not an Olympic sport for women when Saxby-Junna was at her peak in the 1980s.

“I spent two Olympics watching the men,” she said. When it was first introduced in 1992, she finished 15th at the Barcelona Games and four years later she finished 12th at Atlanta.

“I overdid everything in the heat, training at Darwin, and went over to Barcelona absolutely tired,” she said.

“Then in ’96, I caught a cold just before the Olympics and developed infected sinuses.” Saxby-Junna moved to Canberra in 1986 but her parents Barry and Jan live in Ballina. Her sister Sharyn lives at Skennars head and her brother Justin lives in East Ballina. She currently works part-time in education and coaches part-time.

“But I’m not getting back into it full-time,” she said.

“It’s too much travelling and too much hard work.”

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