Emma Snowsill’s victory in the women’s triathlon at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 represented a triumph over years of pain, tragedy and frustration. In 2002, when she had the Athens Olympics in her sights, her life was turned upside down. Her boyfriend, fellow triathlete Luke Harrop, was killed in a hit-and-run accident while out on a training ride. She contemplated quitting the sport, but after a break and a change of coach decided to keep going. In 2003 - when she was world champion - she suffered a stress fracture of the femur during the Olympic trials, putting her out of contention for the Athens Games. She watched the Olympic race in horror as her friend Loretta Harrop, Luke’s sister, was overtaken with the gold medal seemingly in her grasp - by Australian-turned-Austrian Kate Allen.
Snowsill, born in 1981, won the world junior championship in 2000 and took gold in the Australian Youth Olympic Festival the following year. She went on to win three world championships - in 2003, 2005 and 2007 - and to win the gold medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
In Beijing, the tiny (48kg) Snowsill took the lead in the final run leg of the contest, and was never headed. “Running scared” was how she described her effort. She was waving an Australian flag before she finished. Afterwards she embraced the other place-getters, climbed into the stands to hug her coach Craig Walton then, understandably, began to weep. “Everybody had a personal story,” she said later, “and everybody deals with it differently. You can only look forward to tomorrow. You can’t change the past, only take control.”
Harry Gordon, AOC Historian