Jana Pittman is happy, because this time there is no Jana Drama.
Remember that? Jana Drama?
That’s the force of nature that often comes in like a bitter cold front before every major competition she ever competed in as a 400 metres runner.
Normally, the Jana Drama involves injuries. How many of those have we ridden with her?
From the blown knee cartilage before the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the sight of her being pursued by the media pack as she hobbled around on crutches, to the toe injury that kept her away from Beijing four years later, to another foot injury that finally ended her athletics career before London four years after that.
The Jana Drama was hard for Jana Pittman to ignore after she completed her final training session with Astrid Radjenovic in the women’s two-man bobsled in Sochi on Sunday morning.
”The biggest thing for me is that I got here injury free,” she said on a cold morning at the Sanki Sliding Centre. ”I lost the last two Olympics because of injury. Actually, it’s the last three. To be able to finish the last training session and know I am putting my spikes on in two days time, with nothing wrong, is phenomenal. So I’m very grateful for this lady.”
She says this pointing to Radjenovic, who has often been the forgotten part of Pittman’s incredible comeback story that will see her become the first female athlete to compete at the summer and winter Games for Australia.
Asked if she is surprised to be reflecting on her former, drama-filled life as a track athlete, she said: ”I can’t not. We’re at the Olympics. I’m pretty lucky. I’ve been given a real gift and a second chance. I’ll carry that with me for the rest of my life. Even if I never go to another Olympics, to finish on a high together would be great. It doesn’t matter what the result is. The fact that we got here after all we’ve been through in the last year, and what this one [Radjenovic] has done for seven years, it’s just fantastic. I could retire happy if I did.”
Of course, the Jana Drama extends beyond the injuries.
From fallouts with former relay team member Tamsyn Lewis, to her on-again-off-again-on-again-off-again relationship with English athlete Chris Rawlinson that was dragged through the women’s magazines, to stories about her removing breast implants to improve her athletic career.
The Australian public, which can be as fickle and dramatic as she could be, fell out of love with Pittman very quickly.
In an interview with ABC Radio in 2011, she admitted: ”You know, I have made so many mistakes and so many of them have been written out, you know, through the public. You know, boobs in, boobs out, divorced, remarried, divorced. Like it’s, it’s quite comical when I look back on it really … So I guess the situation is that I’m the bad girl and that’s it.”
The shame of it is beneath the Jana Drama lies a pure athlete called Jana Pittman, who has as much defiance and ability as any we’ve seen.
In 2003, at the age of 20, she was the youngest person to win the world championship in the 400 hurdles. She won it again in 2007. If not for injury, an Olympic gold medal would likely be hers, given her ability in the event.
When she abandoned athletics, she tried her hand at boxing and rowing, and then bobsleigh.
In her role as brakeman, she does most of the heavy pushing at the start.
She has subsequently whacked on 11 kilograms thanks to the combination of heavy lifting and more than enough protein shakes, meat and carbs to fuel a footy team. The result: she has the legs of an NFL linebacker.
”You eat for Australia,” she laughed.
Don’t go expecting medals, Australia, from Pittman and Radjenovic, although they finished ninth in their final training session.
”We’re realistic,” says Radjenovic. ”Tenth to 15th is where we would plan to finish. We could sneak into the top 10 if we have a great few days. We’ll wait and see.”