Winkcup streaks onto team for World Championships
After missing selection in the Australian team for the World University Games in the idyllic city of Naples, steeplechaser Georgia Winkcup shifted her focus for the European summer. She would race in June at the Oceania Championships in Townsville, then head to Europe; not to compete, but for a holiday and Contiki tour. However, all that changed in less than ten minutes on 27 June – after improving her PB by 39 seconds during three races, she is now travelling to Doha for the World Athletics Championships later this month.
“I am so incredibly excited to have been selected for my first open world championships team. Obviously, like anyone, I’ve always dreamed of competing at the highest level possible in the sport but to actually be selected to compete at the world championships is a dream come true,” reflected Winkcup this week.
“At the beginning of this year, and even after nationals, the world championships wasn’t something that I thought could be a possibility for me, but now I can’t wait to head over to Doha and give it all that I’ve got for all the people that have helped me to get here.”
The surprising journey started at the Oceania Championships.
“After having been lucky enough to be given the chance to compete at the Oceania Championships and run a PB there the last ten weeks have been an unexpected whirlwind. Instead of heading off to Europe for a holiday and a Contiki trip, I was given the chance to race a few times in some fantastic fields and chase my dreams of making an open Australian team.”
How did her athletics journey start for the now 22-year-old?
Georgia Winkcup was encouraged to start athletics at a young age by her former world record-holding grandmother Betty Moore. Initially a distance runner, she started steeplechasing during her teens under former coach Ross Forster. She enjoyed the event and had some success, winning the Australian All Schools U18 2000m steeple in 2013. Three years later she was a finalist in the 3000m steeplechase at the 2016 World Junior Championships, as she settled into her busy study program (Arts/Law) and part-time work as a paralegal.
After suffering a few injuries, there was little progress for a few years, although she was still building and continuing to race and train. In late 2016, her coach John Atterton died.
“John was an incredibly supportive, driven, committed and incredible man and coach,” said Winkcup.
“He was someone who really believed in each and every one of his athletes and I think that he was so influential to me, specifically because even when I was injured, he was so incredibly positive and encouraged me to enjoy every minute of the sport both on and off the track, especially in the never-ending and gruelling cross-training sessions.”
After changing coaches to Ben Liddy in mid-2018, there were glimpses of progress at the Australian Uni Games in 2019 where she ran her then second-fastest steeplechase (10:18), followed ten minutes later by an 800m PB. Then at the Oceania Championships, it happened – she destroyed her previous PB by 29 seconds, clocking 9:46.51 and placing a close second. She rates it as her’ most memorable sporting achievement’ to date.
“From that moment my planned holiday and Contiki trip through Europe was changed a little as I was able to get on the start lists for a few international races, something which I had never expected when my season ended in April,” said Winkcup.
Three weeks later she ran another PB (9:45.98) in Belgium, and then two weeks later sliced another eight seconds from her PB to clock 9:37.43 in Birmingham, achieving a qualifying standard for the Doha World Championships and moving from 24th to 7th Australian all-time.
In Doha, she will compete on day one (27 September) and day four (30 September) of the championships. At just 22, let’s hope she is at the start of a successful career on the world stage – she has already come along way.
David Tarbotton for Athletics NSW
Image: Georgia Winkcup (courtesy of David Tarbotton)