Pittman is on top of the world
Thursday 11 December 2003
THIS REPORT COURTESY OF THE IAAF WEBSITE
When Jana Pittman heard her track and field heroes speak with bravado about “the view from the top of the world” she decided to take a look for herself.
Victories in the 400m Hurdles at the IAAF’s 1999 World Youth Championships, 2000 World Junior Championships, and the senior 2003 World Championships enabled the gregarious young Australian to spend quite a bit of time at the top of the medals podium.
But for a real taste of rarified atmosphere, Pittman, 21, did the unthinkable for an athlete preparing next year for the ultimate climb to the summit of Olympic sport.
She jumped out of an aeroplane flying at 13,000ft, risking limb - not to mention life - in a breathtaking and fearless pursuit of adventure and adrenalin.
For most athletes - much less an Olympic favourite - it would be inconceivable to take a season-ending gamble like the tandem skydive she made while on her brief vacation following her shock triumph in Paris.
"I was worried about hurting my feet, but if you wrap yourself in cotton-wool you’re more likely to come across an injury anyway,’’ Pittman reasoned. “It’s just the nature of life.”
"I’ve always wanted to fly. If I had to be an animal it would be a bird - an eagle, for sure.
“The adrenalin was incredible. As soon as I was out I loved it. The elation was amazing.”
So was the elevation. She was free-falling for almost a minute before she pulled the ripcord and then spent 10 minutes floating back down to earth at Picton west of her home in Sydney.
"Everything looked so small, miniscule. The buildings looked like dolls houses,’’ Pittman enthused.
And so how is the view from the top of the world? “Pretty brilliant,” she confirmed.
“I’d do it again for sure. But I’d better wait until after Athens.”
Surprisingly, her coach, Phil King, gave his blessing for the dangerous dive.
"I gave the go-ahead. She’s got to live. She can get smashed driving a car,’’ King said, revealing his justification for allowing Australia’s most celebrated athlete to take the death-defying plunge.
“You treat each athlete as they come and Jana is an adrenlin animal. Yes there is a risk involved, but the advantage is she came home and said, ‘Phil, I’ve had the most exciting experience’. Now she’s refreshed in the head.”
"Doing things like climbing Sydney Harbour Bridge and jumping out of a plane is all about Jana the person. It’s what makes her the wonderful athlete she is.’’