For Joel Milburn 2008 will always be the year he joined that very exclusive club and became an Olympian.
The Faulconbridge 400m runner has now been recognised by the community, honoured as Blue Mountains Sportsperson of the Year at a Katoomba ceremony on Monday.
Just last January the 22-year-old was hopeful of improving his performance enough to squeeze into the relay squad for Beijing — by the end of October he was Australian champion and a proven Olympic performer.
Milburn made the semi finals in the individual event and anchored the 4x400m relay team home to sixth position in the final.
“Running at the Olympics is a big enough achievement for me as it is,” Milburn said. “All these other things that come along are exciting as well . . . especially to be recognised by my local community.”
It didn’t take long to settle back into the real world post-Beijing, Olympians still have to catch up on university work and turn up to their day jobs.
Milburn has also found time to visit his junior club, Glenbrook Little Athletics, to sign autographs and talk to our next generation of stars.
“I remember when I was a kid at Little A’s and Australian athletes turned up. It really made a difference to my day so if I can do the same for some kids I think that’s a good thing.”
After such a stunning year, and some well-earned time off, Milburn is looking to make 2009 a similar success.
“It’s always hard when you’ve just had a really good season to back it up and do it all again,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of expectations to live up to now but I know that I’m capable of doing it so I’ve just got to put the work in.”
With the World Championships to be staged in Berlin this August there is plenty of work ahead to ensure he books a place on the team.
While Milburn’s Olympic performances put him in the box seat for a berth, he’s wary of the fierce competition for places.
With his first race on February 7 it won’t be long until Milburn is back doing what he does best and, judging by last year’s exploits, it would be foolish to bet against him.
Article by Michael Cleggett, appearing in the Blue Mountains Gazette