Michelle Jenneke is ready to move on from the shoe furore that has swirled in recent weeks, but the court of public opinion doesn’t seem ready to move on just yet.
Jenneke ran a career-saving personal best time at the World Championships in Oregon last month in an event that has had the athletics world raising its eyebrows.
Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan broke the world record in the women’s 100m hurdles at the Oregon meet and the fact she did it wearing new shoes was not missed.
Jenneke ran her personal best of 12.66 wearing traditional track spikes while Amusan produced her lightning times wearing Adidas Adizero Avanti shoes — designed for runners who compete in 5-10 km races.
Jenneke’s time wasn’t even enough for her to sneak into the final as Amusan obliterated her personal best time by almost 0.3 seconds to set the new world record at 12.12. She also produced a 12.06 in the final, but it was scratched from the record books because it was a wind-assisted time.
The times were so quick in Oregon that sprinting icon Michael Johnson thought the timing system was broken.
“I don’t believe the 100th times are correct,” he wrote on Twitter.
“All athletes looked shocked.”
From an Australian perspective, we can be safe in the knowledge that Jenneke’s comeback was all down to her performance.
Amusan hit out at the speculation that surrounded her record and said she switched shoes because of an ongoing heel condition,
“My abilities are not centred around spikes,” she said.
“I had patella fasciitis at the beginning of the season so that set me back for a while. I spoke to Adidas and requested if I could get spikes with a softer sole. They recommended a lot of stuff and I feel comfortable in these, so I was using them basically the entire time.”
Adidas originally promoted the product as shoes that “provide a snappy, propulsive ride with high traction and reduce fatigue, so you finish 5km and 10km races with a kick”.
Jenneke said before her program starts on Friday evening (AEST) that the shoe technology debate has been blown out of context.
She is much more focused on her own performance — and that sweet personal best she set in Oregon which made her the second-quickest women’s 100m hurdler Australia has ever produced, behind only Sally Pearson.
“It was unbelievable. I still can’t believe I ran that fast,” she said.
“I keep going back looking at footage of the race and just going, ‘Oh my gosh, did I actually do that?’”
When speaking to reporters she went on to say: “I ran quite a PB in that race and ran in the same shoes that I have been running in for the last five years.
“I know I can’t attribute my PB to the shoes because it’s the same shoe, the same model of shoe. I have tried some of the newer spikes that they have coming out, the technology is amazing, and I’m sure people are faster but at the same time if you go back 10, 20 years, look at the shoes people were wearing, they were entirely different to what we were wearing five years ago. The technology is forever evolving.
“I don’t think we are seeing anything that is causing that much of a change that it needs to be questioned.
“World Athletics is constantly reviewing this, they do have a compliance list for the shoes, and they have to be checked. I don’t think there is a huge story personally and in terms of me there is definitely not.”
Her return to form makes her an outside medal threat in Birmingham.
She is also promising to producer her trademark pre-race jiggle routine.
The 29-year-old went viral with the pre-race shake at the 2012 World Junior Championships and it ultimately led to her being one of the highest-profile stars of the 2016 Rio Olympics, even though some thought the notoriety didn’t match her performances on the track.
Jenneke was once a household name who attracted global attention — and major endorsement deals from some of the world’s biggest companies. She was sponsored by Coca-Cola at the Rio Games and her face was plastered across billboards in the Brazilian city.
But she copped fierce criticism for a disappointing showing at those Games, finishing sixth in her 100m hurdles heat.
Australian track and field coach at the time, Craig Hilliard, accused Jenneke of arriving in Rio out of shape and questioned whether distractions away from the track contributed to her lacklustre showing. Athletics Australia then cut her funding.
She rebounded for a strong performance at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and narrowly missed out on a bronze medal.
Four injury-riddled years later and Jenneke will be hoping to make Australia fall in love with her all over again in Birmingham.
Originally published as ‘Can’t believe it’: Aussie star caught in Commonwealth Games shoe storm