Michelle Jenneke – From Warm Up Dance to Rio 2016

27 million views and counting, meet Michelle Jenneke whose unique race prep made the Olympic hurdler an internet superstar. If you haven’t seen it watch below, it’s infectiously bubbly. Prior to qualifying for Rio 2016, Jenneke’s infamy stemmed from a video of her psyching herself up for a race. Jigging, jumping and beaming pre race saw her energetic prep take the world by storm. With Sally Pearson out due to injury, Michelle is Australia’s number one Olympic hope in athletics and a wildly intelligent woman beyond her bouncy dance.

Olympic teammates have criticised the way women in sport are commercialised, sold as a sexed up package to the masses of adoring fans. Upon review of our most successful branded Olympian’s this rings true, Stephanie Rice, Torah Bright and Sally Pearson relish multiple sponsorships while male athletes struggle to gain the same level of profile.

“I’d much rather have an Olympic gold medal than an SI swimsuit cover, but I don’t see why I can’t aspire for both.” 

It’s an interesting paradigm given the gender pay gap with male athletes raking in a more lucrative salary than their female counterparts across every field and sport. The engagement of the public with female sport is also much lower with female team sports amongst the least requested tickets at the games, considered a novelty rather than a site of sporting excellence.

“It is a shame how females in sport are often presented,” said Jenneke, “At the moment there is no escaping it, and I don’t have a problem with it as I know when I am on the track it’s strictly about me doing my thing.” Jennie has been savvy with her profile since her dance hit Youtube, she now appears in Woolworths and Coca Cola ads in the lead to the games. “I’d much rather have an Olympic gold medal than an SI swimsuit cover, but I don’t see why I can’t aspire for both.”

Michelle while training exhaustively for Rio is studying a degree in Mechatronics part time.   That’s a combination of electrical and mechanical engineering involving robotics, a degree where the title in itself is challenging.

Jenneke’s training in jazz and tap evident in her rhythmic warm up, posing the question Why hurdling? “Throughout school I played different sports, and danced and played soccer for over 10 years. I started at Little Athletics when I was nine and hurdles was always my best event. Now I love it because it’s very technical.” A Mechatronic mind taking on racing with analytical efficiency, Jenneke is a sporting icon in the making.

“I am looking forward to seeing how fast I can go.” 

While studying part time Michelle’s race prep is a daily effort, from hurdle practice to pressing over 500kg. Michelle capitalised on her popularity and released an app, Stretch! With Michelle focusing on her race warm up outside her jig. An ecstatic Michelle has been chasing Sally Pearson in recent years with her qualifying time cutting just 0.03 seconds slower than Pearson. Michelle’s training involves lots of Pearson videos reviewed and emulating her incredible form, even training with Sally’s trainer to perfect her jump.  When asked about her first Olympic games Jenneke notes,”I am looking forward to seeing how fast I can go.”

From taking on Jeremy Clarkson on the track, Clarkson in a Nissan GTRX and Michelle blistering on foot; to a Sports Illustrated spread, Jenneke is ecstatic to add Olympian to her bio. “It is really exciting the prospect of being an Olympian and put my name out there that I am known for my athletics,” Jenneke said last month.”I want to do the best I can. I want to push towards making a final. I want to race well.” With a time under 13 seconds across her 100m event, Michelle is set to blaze her way through.

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Editor of 5Why. Avid reader, obsessed traveller, always overdressed, chronically indecisive and nostalgic 20-something.

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