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Saville finshes her long walk

2 February 2009

Walker Jane Saville has decided to end an athletics career that garnered an Olympic Games bronze medal and three Commonwealth Games gold medals, but will forever be remembered for one race she didn't finish.

Saville, 34, has decided to retire and put more of her time into helping improve the health and fitness of Australians, including staging a fun run and a coaching clinic for indigenous youth.

Her career spanned four Olympic campaigns, but it is one day in September 2000 that will forever be remembered by Australian sport fans.

The image of Saville bursting into tears after being disqualified 200m from winning gold at the Sydney Olympics has become a part of sporting folklore.

"It was one of those moments in the Olympic Games people won't forget," she said. "People know me more as the girl who got disqualified in Sydney than winning a bronze medal (at the Athens Olympics), which is really bizarre.

"If I'd won in Sydney I might have retired that year and wouldn't have had the experiences of winning another couple of Commonwealth Games and certainly Athens.

"It was a sad and difficult experience, but it taught me a lot and made me stronger as an athlete and a person."

Interestingly, despite her public grief at the infamous disqualification, Saville says the low point of her career came 12 months later.

"On an international scale I've probably had more lows than I've had highs," she said. "2000 was difficult obviously but 2001 was probably the most difficult of my career because I got disqualified at the Olympics, then six months later I got disqualified at the national championships and then six months after that I got disqualified at the world champs.

"I was really working on fixing my technique and the judges obviously didn't think so.

"That was the only real time I really thought about quitting and retiring, but I didn't want to look back in 20 or 30 years and wish I'd kept going."

A 20th placing at the Beijing Games was a disappointment and she considered racing for another 12 months, but her body was telling her it was time to quit.

"You know it's never going to last forever, but I did enjoy competing," she said. "It's a shock to the system not to train and smash myself.

"I thought I might race for one more year but I want to have kids soon and my body's not getting any younger, so now is a good time."

Jane and her younger sister Natalie raced together at the Athens Games and also won the gold and silver respectively at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006.

James Dampney

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