Jana Drama 2: Pulls Baton Relay

Pittman pulls out of Baton relay
March 14, 2006

CHAMPION hurdler Jana Pittman had pulled out of the Commonwealth Games Baton relay, organisers said today.

A Queen’s Baton relay spokeswoman said organisers did not know why Pittman had withdrawn.

“Yes, she has … we don’t have any information, we’re just acknowledging that she’s forfeited her position,” the spokeswoman said.

Pittman had been due to carry the Queen’s Baton along Swanston Street to Bourke Street Mall ahead of a street party tonight.

Pittman will be replaced by 200m runner Lauren Hewitt.

Comment was being sought from Pittman.



By Jordan Chong
March 14, 2006 - 4:05PM

Hurdler Jana Pittman has withdrawn from the Queen’s Baton relay in Melbourne this afternoon because of her troublesome hamstring injury.

Some 3500 Australians have ‘run’ 500 metre sections of the baton relay, some as old as 92, some overweight and some in wheelchairs

But, according to ABC Radio, Pittman decided to skip the relay as a precaution against further injury on the hamstring.

“It’s a question of just managing the injury that she has sustained, that hamstring injury, nothing more serious than that,” Australian team spokesman John Gatfield told ABC Radio.

Pittman pulled out of an athletics meet at Melbourne’s Olympic Park last week citing similar concerns with the hamstring, but team doctor Max Binnington said the star hurdler would be fine. [ BINNINGTON IS THE HEAD COACH. BUT DOCTOR WILL DO :rolleyes: ]

“She’ll be 100 per cent when she steps out on the track in the competition,” he said last week.

Pittman withdrew from an athletics grand prix meeting last Thursday with a minor hamstring problem.

Her place in the relay has been taken by Australian sprinter Lauren Hewitt, who will run along Swanston Street in Melbourne’s CBD.

Pittman last week revealed she would leave Australia after the Commonwealth Games and no longer had the passion she once did to run for her country.

A teary-eyed Pittman told how she felt she was being driven out of Australia and planned to move to England, blaming the negative publicity she received after 400 metre runner Tamsyn Lewis called her a “bitch” and also bad press since the 2004 Olympics.

She described the Athens Olympics as the lowest point of her career and also the event that led to a shift in the public’s opinion of her, with the intense media attention as she battled back from knee injury in the build-up.

-with David Braithwaite

Drama Jana skips baton relay as public support runs low

Duncan Mackay in Melbourne
Wednesday March 15, 2006
The Guardian

Jana Pittman, the runner supposed to symbolise these Commonwealth Games in the same way Cathy Freeman did the 2000 Sydney Olympics, has become so unpopular with the Australian public that she pulled out of yesterday Queen’s baton relay allegedly for fear of being booed.
The 2003 world 400 metres hurdles champion, one of the highest-ranked athletes in any sport competing in these Games, has become so disillusioned with life here that she is reportedly considering quitting Australia to live in England with Chris Rawlinson, the British athlete she is due to marry on March 31.

Article continues

The official reason for Pittman pulling out of the relay, in which she would have had to jog or walk only 500 metres, was because she did not want to aggravate a hamstring injury but her decision immediately drew criticism. Speculation was rife that she had been fearful of an adverse reaction along the route from Australians who have tired of the constant drama that seems to surround her life.
“Not making herself available, that’s a bit of a disappointment,” said the Commonwealth Games minister Justin Madden. “The event is more than about one person, it’s about the Commonwealth of nations and the 71 nations and the 4,500 athletes.”

Pittman, 23, was due to run the final leg of the relay into central Melbourne before a street party on the eve of the Games, which will be opened by the Queen at the refurbished MCG before a crowd of 80,000 today. Her trials since the 2004 Olympics have been a constant source of public interest. She had been the favourite for the gold medal at Athens but suffered a late knee injury and finished fifth.

Pittman was thrust back into the spotlight a few weeks ago after being embroiled in a public row with Tamsyn Lewis, a team-mate on Australia’s 4x400m relay team. Lewis called her a “bitch” and Pittman - the daughter of a vicar who has a large collection of stuffed wombats - claims she has been cast unfairly in the role of villain by the Australian public and media, who have nicknamed her “Jana Drama”.

Newspapers and television schedules for the past few days have been filled with the opinions of former Australian sportsmen and women on the topic. The coverage has been almost wholly negative towards Pittman.

Rohan Robinson, her former fiancé, believes she is the victim of being a high achiever. “Be that academically or athletically, she won basically every championship she ever tried to win except the Olympics when she had the problems with her knee,” said Robinson, an Olympic finalist in the 400m hurdles in 1996. “And it’s disappointing for her to feel like she doesn’t have the support of people.”

The Australian team’s chef de mission, John Devitt, said Pittman had adopted a conservative approach to managing her injury but was unsure how carrying the baton could have aggravated it.

“But that’s not for us to decide and therefore we accept what she said,” he said. “She was putting the team and her performance in about five days’ time in the right perspective as far as we’re concerned. She’s going out there to make sure she’s fit to run.”

The Pittman story sums up the mostly negative attitude towards these Games, with the Australian media critical of the almost £500m cost of staging them, supposedly disappointing ticket sales - 247,000 were still available for the athletics, which starts on Sunday - and the withdrawal of superstars such as Paula Radcliffe from the marathon and the swimmers Ian Thorpe and Grant Hackett.

Before every Commonwealth Games the event’s role is scrutinised and questioned. But more than 1m tickets have already been sold for 16 different sports and the international television audience is expected to be in excess of one billion. About 5,000 reporters will cover the 11 days and tourism officials estimate there will be 90,000 visitors to Melbourne.

England’s officials predict their team of 349 competitors will win 120 medals. But that will not be enough to compete with the juggernaut of the Australian team, which is aiming for a record haul of 88 gold medals.

Few here are in doubt that even Pittman will be embraced if she beats her closest rival, England’s Nicola Sanders, to defend the title she won in Manchester four years ago.

The attitude was summed up by one local radio presenter yesterday. “It may not be the Olympic Games,” he said. “But it’s a great opportunity for Australia to beat up on lots of little nations and win lots of gold medals.”

Sydney Morning Herald internet Reader Poll

Jana Pittman pulling out of baton relay
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