Steep-le learning curve ahead for Gilfillans


THE Channon's Jessica Gilfillan keeps facing new tests in her quest to rise to the top ranks of Australian athletics.

After winning the open 1500m at the Queensland Athletics Championships this month, the 16-year-old had to take her first drug test.

Last week, she had to run after the world's fastest man, Asafa Powell, at the World Athletics Tour in Melbourne.

Tomorrow, she'll line up alongside her older sister, Courtney, 18, in the 3000m steeplechase event at the Australian Athletics Olympics selection trials in Brisbane.

Neither sister is focused on Beijing selection, but Jessica's form could see her challenge for a podium finish against much more experienced competition.

"Jessica is ranked number three in Australia and could be a bronze medal chance," said mum, Karen.

"She raced in Melbourne in the race immediately after Asafa Powell.

"It was the biggest crowd she'd ever raced in front of."

But big moments seem to bring out her best.

"There were four Olympians in her race and she finished sixth," Karen said.

"She set a new personal best of 10m:35s which is about 20 seconds off an Olympic B Qualifier."

For Courtney, the event is more about testing herself against the best in the country.

"Courtney focuses on triathlons but still runs track and she's actually doing quite well," Karen said.

Courtney's focus was rewarded this week when she was named in the Australian team, alongside her mum Karen, for the World Triathlon Championships in Canada later this year.

Courtney won selection after winning the Under 19s Australian Championships, while Karen finished fifth in the 40-44 years category.

"It's a great honour to go with Courtney," Karen said.

"It's a really special milestone because the girls have always looked up to me and to go together is fantastic.

"It's something we wanted to do as a mother and daughter.

"We both hope to use these 'World's' to get experience for next year, which will be great to have world champs in Australia (Gold Coast)"

Next week, the sisters travel to x Canberra for the Australian Junior Cross Country Championships where both are in with a good chance.

The week after they head to the Gold Coast for the National Under 20 Athletics Championships where Courtney will run the 5km and Jessica will run her pet event, the steeplechase.

They might all have different disciplines, but one thing all the Gilfillans have in common is a winning spirit.

"Great achievers in life look beyond," Karen said.

"You always set you sights higher. Training is easy and results should be easy.

"The hard part is when things don't always stay on track and you're challenged and need to take a step back and see that this is a knock back and ask yourself how can we use this to be stronger."

Tne challenge the Gilfillans face is meeting the costs of travelling to each event.

"It is hard to have so many events for the one family," Karen said.

"It's hard to train at this level and also be there for my family as well: that's the biggest challenge for me.

"And it does get tough financially. The biggest cost is travelling and accommodation. But in some ways that's helped us keep the girls grounded."

The family will need to raise $10,000 just to send Courtney and Karen to the World Championships.

Each can wear three sponsors' logos on their Australian uniform and are calling for expressions of interest from the community.

Phone The Northern Star sports desk for more information on 66 200 549.

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