Jess's fighting spirit
THE Gilfillan girls have had their fair share of athletic victories: World School Games gold, national track championships, World Cup triathlon medals, among a host of others.
But 18-year-old Jessica’s win in the Darrel Chapman Fun Run on Sunday would have to be the sweetest.
Jessica, the youngest of three sisters, climbed out of a hospital bed to star in the 3km run around the streets of East Lismore. She hadn’t exercised for three months.
Older sister, Courtney, 20, won the 6km event but could only speak of the spirit of her kid sister.
“Jess has had a real tough time over the last few months,” Courtney said.
“To see her do what she did on Sunday was an inspiration.”
Jessica had been in the mental health ward at Lismore Base Hospital since returning from the World School Games in December. Not the place to be for your 18th birthday.
Her effort to pick herself up and win the 3km run with no preparation has inspired not only her family, but the local athletics fraternity as a whole.
“I am so glad she has regained her passion for running – everyone is,” Courtney said.
“Everyone has been wondering where she disappeared to – she won gold in Qatar then was just gone.”
It was only fitting that Jessica would return to the tarmac for the 15th Darrel Chapman Fun Run.
“It’s a very important race for us; a family tradition,” Courtney said.
So is winning. Last year, Jessica won the 6km race and Courtney the 3km; in 2006, elder sister Ashlea won the 6km race; in 2000, mum Karen was the champ. All four are yet to race in the same event but Courtney wants to change that.
“I would love for us all to race-off in the same event,” she said.
“Maybe next year.”
Until then, middle sister will be training for NSW Cross Country Championships and the iconic City to Surf with an eye to selection for the Elite Athletics World Championships.
More importantly, Courtney is over the moon to have her Jess back and training by her side.