Gabriella O’Grady is a local who started athletics with the Northern Suburbs Little Athletics Centre (NSLAC) when she was just nine years old. Ten years later she is still part of the same club and has now been selected to represent Austrailia at the World Athletics Under 20 Championships to be held in July in Bydgoszcz Poland. She will compete in the 100m Hurdles and 4x100m relay. We were so impressed with Gabriella’s achievements we asked her to be one of our Lane Cove Local Identities.
When did you start your Athletics Training?
I joined the NSLAC at the age of nine. Prior to this my most memorable athletics’ moment was stopping half way through the Kindergarten 50 m race to go back and get my hat.
ITC Note: The NSLAC is one of the largest Little Athletics Clubs in NSW. For over 40 seasons they have been helping young athletes (like Gabriella) to enjoy their sport and develop their athletic skills. Their weekly carnivals are held most Saturday mornings from September to March at Rotary Athletic Field, Chatswood West.
How long have you lived in Lane Cove?
I have lived in this area since I was two and a half years old. From Lane Cove to Longueville to Riverview, you could call me a 2066 veteran.
You have been selected for Hurdles and 100m relay, what is your favourite event?
Funnily enough, I don’t have a favourite event. By trait, I am a hurdler and the challenge, nerves and psychological game it can bring is what makes me love it. But I have always been a flat sprinter as well; 100m and 200m. Despite hurdles being my best event, on many occasions, my speed endurance over the 200m has seen me place nationally a few times as well.
At the start of the last season, I was stepping up to my first 200m for the year. Fairly nervous, I turned to my training partner for a bit of a pump up. She turned and said, ‘it doesn’t matter how you go, at the end of the day you are a hurdler’. For some reason that stuck with me, as no, I don’t just see myself as a hurdler and I love the adrenalin that comes with accelerating onto the bend and entering the straight with 100m to go.
For me, it shows the diversity that I have across each event and the strength in being able to run a fast 200 m.
The past six months have been an absolute whirlwind. The goal the entire season was to qualify and be selected for the World Under 20 Championships which are being held in July in Bydgoszcz, Poland. Don’t worry; I had never heard of the place beforehand either.
To be selected you have to achieve the qualifying standard, and come top two at the Junior National Championships. December saw me achieve my first qualifier. To everyone’s shock, in the 200m! I ran 24.07 and was the first girl to put a time down in that event. Slicing my foot open on a hurdle in January saw me face a few stitches and bumps, but a week after having the stitches taken out I achieved what I had worked so hard for, my 100m Hurdles qualifier. The standard was 13.85, I ran 13.65, placing me as the 10th fastest Under 20 in Australian history. More determined than ever, I achieved the standard a second time.
In my national final in Perth, in the first week of March, I hit the fifth hurdle and fell. I was absolutely devastated. I did not have an automatic selection on the team. I ran in the 200m final and came third, which I was ecstatic about as we hadn’t planned to do the 200m unless I needed to. But again, not an automatic selection.
A week long wait and I received the call. I had been selected on the team to run in the 100m Hurdles and 4x100m relay in Bydgoszcz, Poland in July. I am still so elated in achieving the first step to my dream of wearing the green and gold. I am indebted to my coach, parents and support network for their unwavering love and encouragement.
Who are your Sporting Idols?
My sporting idols are not famous, and you most likely won’t have heard of them.
The first is my coach, Penny Gillies. She is an Olympian, who competed at the 1972 and 1980 Olympics. The dedication she gives our squad, and the confidence she has instilled in me since moving to train with her is incredible. She is a true champion who I aspire to be like as I grow as an athlete.
The other one is my training partner Abbie Taddeo. Since moving to the squad last year and stating my goals to make this team Abbie has gone out of her way to keep me in shape physically and mentally. Abbie herself is an Australian hurdler, having been to this same championship at my age and last year racing at the World University Championships, where she made the final. Abbie is the most driven athlete I have ever come across, who drives to and from Kiama to training every day. Abbie taught me to believe that if you work hard enough, then you will reap the rewards. I could not have stayed sane this season without her, and I genuinely think that come the next Olympics her face will be there. Sporting idols don’t need to be famous, but I think they need to touch you in some shape or form.
What do you do when you are not training?
Sleep, a lot! And eat, there’s definitely a lot of eating. I am in my second year of university at UTS where I am studying Communications/Laws, however, this semester I am only doing one subject in preparation for the championships.
It is so crucial to have balance and to have your days away from thinking about athletics. I spend time on the northern beaches where my boyfriend lives, and a lot of time spending my aunty’s money on skim latte’s for a catch-up. I also do a bit of nannying and I am about to start coaching athletics at Monte. So I am always busy, but I would go insane if I wasn’t. My mum jokes that I always have to be doing something otherwise I drive people up the wall.
What do you like about living in Lane Cove?
The community is amazing. I went to primary school at St. Michael’s Primary School and the relationships I have sustained through that network is something that is still with me. This area is home, it will always be home and, for now anyway, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.
What is your favorite thing to do in Lane Cove?
I don’t mind getting my nails done every now and again, and I definitely don’t mind buying an inspirational quote from Zjoosh each month. My favourite past time is going out for breakfast, so nothing beats brunch after a training session in the morning.
What is your favourite Lane Cove shop?
Cafe Zivelli is my absolute favourite place in Lane Cove. If they do not see me for a day they are genuinely concerned. Mum thinks I owe half of making the Australian team to the mammoth portion of eggs and avocado they will give me after a hard weekend training session.
What can Lane Cove or In the Cove do to help you on your way to Poland?
When you make the Under 20 Australian Team each athlete is responsible for raising money to fund the team levy that each individual must pay. The levy pays for accommodation, flights, food, uniform and more. I am trying to raise the money myself in order to say I was able to get myself on the plane. I have started a GoFund me campaign and if anyone is able to share or give the smallest donation I would be so grateful. You can donate here – https://www.gofundme.com/9wwy4fjw.
So when your kids start at Little Athletics, it could be their first step to donning the gold and green. Well done Gabriella and good luck from ITC.
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