Having grown up competing against elite calibre athletes, it would be easy for humble Jenny Blundell to turn away from the spotlight; however, the 22 year old runner is making a name for herself as she strides toward Rio, writes Kristen Barnes.

Quiet achieving Blundell, grew up participating in cross country meets before she found her knack in middle distance running. She competed for Cherrybrook, a club located close to where the teen grew up in the northern suburbs of Sydney. Competing alongside with her, were familiar names Michelle Jenneke and Jin Su Jung, both Commonwealth Games athletes. Jin also attended Cherrybrook Technical High School with Blundell, making a formidable pair to face in any school athletics carnival; they dominated the field from an early age.  

Now, many years on, Blundell still competes with Jenneke and Su Jung, all three are current University of Sydney students and members of the Sydney University Athletics Club (SUAC). A club which has dominated competition for a number of years, and is it any wonder with athletes like those. In 2015 alone, SUAC won every senior competition in Australia. A backbone for many athletes, SUAC offers a home for elite level track and field stars to compete in regular competition. Coming to SUAC in 2013, Blundell chose to focus on the 1500m event after she represented Australia at the Youth Olympics in the 800m.

In 2014, Blundell competed in the Australian Athletics Championships in Melbourne posting an impressive time of 4:12:00 in the 1500m, placing her third behind rival competitors. Less than two years later, Blundell has now achieved a time of 4:04:62 which she posted at the IAAF World Challenge in Beijing only a few months ago. This quick time made her the fifth fastest Australian woman of all time at the 1500m event.

Blundell stripped an impressive 5:05 seconds off her previous personal best time in her IAAF World race, qualifying her for the Olympic Games in Rio. The selection race is still at play however with only three positions available for Australian female track athletes in the 1500m event, with one of these spots already secured by Victorian, Melissa Duncan. Interestingly, Duncan was selected in the Olympic team in June 2015, with a then time of 4:05:56 which is notably slower than the time Blundell recently posted.

Blundell is one of three further athletes who have made the qualifying time, chasing the Olympic dream with her are fellow competitors Linden Hall and Zoe Buckman as well young guns Bridey Delaney and Katelyn Simpson. Blundell should be feeling confident however, after beating out both Hall and Duncan in a recent Hunter Track Classic meet with a then personal best time.

Though having some setbacks in 2015 after suffering from a torn calf muscle, Jenny is making strides at just the right time. With impressive form in 2016 she keeps inching closer and closer to her goal. Her cross country roots have played a big part in her success; she continues to compete in longer distance events to improve her endurance and leg strength.

The female world record holder in the 1500m event will be competing at this year’s Rio Games. Genzebe Dibaba is an Ethiopian middle and long distance runner who astonishingly clocked a 1500m time of 3:50:07 in a Monaco based competition in July 2015. Dibaba holds the world record in five events and has been noted as the athlete of an entire generation and one to watch at the Rio Games. Given Dibaba’s impressive speed, all three selected Australian athletes will have their work cut out for them on the world stage. Despite this, the strength of our nation is very much evident in the sheer number of representatives we will have in the 1500m event come August.

Blundell, like many Sydney Uni athletes is juggling her studies while competing at the highest level; Jenny is completing a Bachelor of Applied Science, while also a member of the Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness Elite Athlete Program. Though the talented runner has plenty on her plate she remains level headed about the coming selection announcement. “It’s an Olympic year; you’ve just got to run as fast as you can. 4:04 is quick, but it might not be fast enough,” Blundell expressed to Athletics Australia. Blundell’s fate will be determined by the time of this publications release.

Fact box:

The 1500m event was first competed in the 1896 Olympic Games and the first gold medallist in this event was an Australian, Edwin Flack. The female event was first introduced in 1972, when the Olympics were held in Munich, Germany.