Australian Jessica Stenson wins marathon at Commonwealth Games

Jessica Stenson’s smile was as bright as the Commonwealth Games gold medal she won on Saturday despite the gruelling nature of the Birmingham marathon course.

The 34-year-old, who claimed one of Australia’s five gold medals on Saturday, broke the hearts of her rivals in a pacesetting run for the biggest triumph of her career.

Stenson’s triumph, seized with great dare through the heart of Birmingham, is another defining moment in Australia’s proud marathon history.

After shaking Namibia’s defending champion Helalia Johannes and then Kenyan Margaret Muriuku with about 5km to run, Stenson strode purposefully uphill to Victoria Square.

Inspiring her was the memory of her idol Kerryn McCann, the 2006 Melbourne gold medallist who tragically died from cancer two years after her heroic final flourish at the MCG.

“I thought about Kerryn’s closing kilometres in that battle against the Kenyan woman as she entered the MCG,” she said. “All of that history really turns into strength that we can use to try and continue that history. I so badly wanted to do Australia and my support team proud today.”

Running 2:27.31 to win by 29 seconds, Stenson is the first woman to claim a medal in three Commonwealth Games marathons after bronze efforts in Glasgow and on the Gold Coast.

Within sight of the finish, Stenson had enough time to say “thank you” to supporters who had earlier cheered de Rozario to victory in the women’s T53/54 wheelchair marathon.

Stenson, who became the sixth Australian woman to win the marathon in the past 10 editions, was greeted at the finish line by her two-year-old son Billy.

“Your perspective shifts. I am doing this because I can. It is a privilege,” she said. “I feel fulfilled anyway and everything here is just a bonus. It sort of takes the pressure off. It is a bonus.”

Her triumph is one of resilience. She has bounced back from the near misses and is better than ever. Not even a recent bout of Covid-19 could deny her a career-defining moment.

Stenson said the enforced rest may have benefited her, for she felt strong throughout a marathon in which compatriots Eloise Wellings and Sinead Diver finished fourth and fifth.

posted Saturday July 30th