Following big footsteps to walk for Australia18 January 2013
ATHLETICS: With Australian flags on her face, Tayla-Paige Billington is following in her mother’s path.
Competing in the 5000m walk at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival (AYOF), the New Zealand born teenager is representing Australia for the first time.
Coached by her mother, Jenny Jones-Billington and John Atterton, the 15-year-old has big footsteps to follow.
Jones-Billington won the 1993 10km Australian walking championships and achieved the qualifying standard for three Olympics, and Atterton is a former national steeple chase medallist.
“I don’t think that I’d be here without my Mum. I went through quite a bit with injury and even with my ups and downs Mum has always been there,” Billington said.
“Mum was great athlete, she’s always trying to push me forward to do better, because she knows that I can.
“You’re always wanting to go that one step further than your parents.”
Taking part in her first international competition, Billington said there are some nerves.
“There’s that fear. I’m terrified of getting out in the race.”
“I think once I get out in the race I’ll enjoy it, like I normally do. But it’s kind of terrifying.”
The thought of being like her Olympian idols drives Billington to aim for her best at the AYOF.
“Seeing Cathy Freeman at the opening ceremony on the video was good, because she used to be in some of Mum’s teams.”
The Sydneysider will also compete against close friend and rival fellow Australian Zoë Boldiston.
“She just beat me at the All Schools competition, so it’ll be a good race,” Billington said.
“Obviously you’re going to want to beat each other on the day, but I think at these events we’ll help each other.
“The first 3km we’ll be neck and neck and then the last 2km it’s whoever wants it more, whoever is the strongest will win.”
Absorbing the pressure and the festival atmosphere, Billington is relishing the chance to be competing.
“I’m quite excited at the moment, I’m just taking in everything.
“I think I’m going to start warming up its going to hit me.”
The 5000m women’s walk will take place Saturday 19 January at the Sydney Olympic Park Athletic Centre.
Follow the AYOF on Twitter @AYOF2013 #AYOF2013 #RoadtoRio
Contact the author of this story @anniemaykearney