Jessica Stenson has drawn inspiration from her son Billy, the late Kerryn McCann and Australia’s proud marathoning tradition to win a history-making gold medal at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
The 34-year-old, who returned to the sport after the birth of her first child in 2019, dropped off all challengers one by one on the way to a famous victory.
She crossed the line beaming with joy in a time of two hours 27 minutes 31 seconds, with Kenyan Margaret Muriuki 29 seconds adrift in second place.
ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER THIS ADVERTISEMENT
It made Stenson the first female marathoner to win three Commonwealth medals, following on from bronzes in 2014 and 2018 under her maiden name of Jessica Trengove.
Australian women have now won six of the 10 Commonwealth marathons.
Stenson’s triumph was the first for Australia since McCann secured the second of her two successive golds in 2006, before passing away two years later, aged 41, after a battle with cancer.
“I was thinking of Kerryn out there,” Stenson told reporters.
“In 2014 my coach organised a few athletes, Steve Moneghetti, Rob de Castella, Lisa Ondieki, some of our greats, to write in a book.
“I read their messages last night.
“I thought about Kerryn’s closing kilometres in that battle against the Kenyan woman as she entered the MCG (to win the 2006 Commonwealth title).
“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.”
As she was covered in sweat, young Billy initially wasn’t too keen on giving his mum a hug after she crossed the finish line.
But he still paid an important role in the victory, along with husband Dylan and other members of Stenson’s inner circle.
“I’m a more relaxed runner as a mother; I can just enjoy the process a bit more,” said Stenson, who prepared for the Commonwealth marathon with a stint of altitude training in Switzerland with her family.
“I really wasn’t thinking about the outcome today; I was just trying to tick off each 5K and that ‘s what you do as a mum.
“You can’t think too far ahead.
“It’s just one moment at a time and you can’t control it.
“You just have to respond to what is happening and I think that gives women a lot of strength as parents.”
Countrywomen Eloise Wellings and Sinead Diver hung tough to finish fourth and fifth respectively, with the minor medals going to Muriuki and defending champ Helalia Johannes from Namibia.
Wellings – competing at her fifth successive Games – and Diver – at 45 the oldest person in the track and field program in Birmingham – are both also mothers.
Earlier on Saturday, wheelchair racing star Madison de Rozario triumphed in the women’s T53/54 race, adding to her glittering array of golds.
De Rozario clocked a winning time of 1:56:00 and is favoured to complete the T53/54 marathon/1500m double for a second straight Commonwealth Games.
In the able-bodied men’s race, Liam Adams was unlucky not to be rewarded with a podium place after a brave display of front-running.
The electrician from Melbourne led for the first 25 kilometres before eventually crossing in fourth spot in 2:13:23.
Victor Kiplangat won Uganda’s first Commonwealth marathon title in 2:10:55.
Johnboy Smith won the men’s T53/54 marathon title in 1:41:15 after fellow Englishman David Weir’s gold-medal bid was scuppered by a mid-race puncture while he was leading.
Australian Jake Lappin was fifth in 1:56:21.
AUSTRALIAN COMMONWEALTH GAMES WOMEN’S MARATHON HONOUR ROLL
1986 – Lisa Ondieki
1990 – Lisa Ondieki
1998 – Heather Turland
2002 – Kerryn McCann
2006 – Kerryn McCann
2022 – Jessica Stenson
© AAP 2022