By Masa Takaya on 25/02/11 at 7:33 pm
They’re fit, fast and they’ve all got youth on their side. In this series we profile some of ITU’s rising stars - a generation of talent set to challenge the established names on the international scene. This week’s Young Gun: Emma Jackson.
What is in a name? Well, quite a lot if you come from Australia and are a female triathlete. Last September, Emma Jackson became the fourth Australian named Emma to win a World Championship title, taking the Under23 title at the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series Grand Final in Budapest. At only 19 she was still eligible to race as a junior if she so desired. It’s because of this steely attitude that she’s quickly following in the footsteps of some of the great Emmas of the sport including Carney, Moffatt and Snowsill.
And like those competitors, Jackson is a complete triathlete, capable of an outstanding swim, leading off the bike and a run that is typically blistering for an Australian superstar. This complete package of swim, bike and run has already earned her a world junior silver medal and the U23 title. Even as a junior racing on the international circuit, Jackson has shown she can hold her own at the longer distances, with multiple top ten finishes on the ITU tour.
Jackson had her breakthrough victory while racing her fourth time over the standard distance, to score a prestigious victory in the Noosa Triathlon in 2009. The race is steeped in tradition in Australian triathlon circles, and consistently boasts a world class field. Coincidentally Emma Snowsill claimed the Noosa title in 2003, just months before winning the Queenstown ITU Triathlon World Championships. While Moffatt and Snowsill both had to sit out Noose in 2009 due to injury, Jackson showed she had the same winning mentality of her namesakes.
Jackson was clearly aware of both the history of the race, and her name.
“It’s a very iconic race to win, heaps of elite athletes like Emma Snowsill and Emma Carney have won it so I’m very proud. Emma is a good name to have and, hopefully, I can keep the tradition going,” she said.
There are more similarities than just a name between Jackson and her fellow countrywomen. Her racing style is very reminiscent of the great Australian women. In Budapest, Jackson was first out of the water and rode alone on the bike in the pouring rain for some time before wisely allowing a small group to catch her. Jackson then stormed out of transition, setting a blistering run pace from the beginning. In fact she posted a final run split of nearly one minute faster than Canadian Kirsten Sweetland, who had over 1 minute and 20 seconds to spare on France’s Emmie Charayron, the silver and bronze medallists respectively – and neither of whom are slouches on the run.
Jackson, a Brisbane native is at a critical age in her development where she now must slowly make the step up from junior and U23 racing to the elite level. There is no underestimating the size of this task, especially at the rate the elite women’s racing is improving. Speaking after the world junior silver medal in 2009 head coach Shaun Stephens said that Australia had to be very careful not to over-race Jackson and let her gradually improve. Triathlon Australia has managed this well so far. Sixth and fifth place finishes at the Holten and Tiszaujvaros ITU Triathlon World Cups and some reasonable performances on the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series circuit in 2010 have all been solid results, which she can build a base off.
But Jackson herself is aware of her tender age and the amount yet to learn.
“Back in July I headed off to Europe to compete on the ITU circuit and prepare for the U23 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary in mid-September. My longest period away from home previously had been three weeks so this was a new experience for me. Not only did I have a great time overseas, I also came home with some good results and learned plenty of things about myself to help me improve both my training and racing,” she recalled.
Only time will tell whether Jackson can continue her success and build on her U23 title. It’s not always easy as Hollie Avil can testify. The talented Brit had a very challenging season last year, plagued by injury and illness after her U23 success in 2009.
Jackson has started the 2011 season on the right foot with a solid third place at the recent Australian Sprint Championships in Geelong. If Jackson can learn from her mentors, stay injury free and continue to improve, there is a chance that all three Australian Olympic spots (if Australia secures three) will go to girls named Emma.