Feature16 Jan 2024

Flemming forecasts golden era for athletics


Jane Flemming (© Athletics Australia)

Athletics Australia President Jane Flemming feels the sport in her home country is poised for an exciting decade ahead.

Last month Athletics Australia won the Member Federation Award as part of the World Athletics Awards 2023. The award recognises a member federation that has positively contributed to the growth and profile of the sport, and Flemming feels Australia has done exactly that in recent years.

“The World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst was very successful, even if we had some very tempestuous weather for that event,” said Flemming. “We also had a wonderful (Continental Tour) Gold meet come back to Australia for the first time in a number of years, which was really successful and had a sell-out crowd.

“We have a new junior programme about to be launched and that also has the backing of World Athletics,” added Flemming. “We’re committed to boosting our sport, nurturing talent and fostering a vibrant athletics community for generations to come to really shift the dial with regard to the health, fitness and wellness of our nation, and the door is open to those who want to contribute to this movement.”

The runway ahead for Flemming and athletic glory is ideal – the Paris Olympics this year, followed by the World Athletics Championships Tokyo 25 and fast forward to the greatest prize of all: another home Games for Australia in Brisbane in 2032 following the success of the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Flemming said she knew of fellow athletes who were offered lucrative contacts to play rival sports including cricket and football in the lead-up to Sydney 2000 but declined because they wanted to compete at a home Olympics.

Athletics Australia was able to hot-house these budding stars in the run-up to Sydney 2000, and by providing a stable ‘rainbow’ of financial support, coaching, training, competition and sports medicine, Flemming predicts there’s more to glory to come for track and field.  

“I hope by the time I step off the board – whether that be in three, four or five years – that we (Australia) have a handful of household names that people know from our sport.

“Leading up to the 2000 Sydney Olympics, that’s what we had and can have again. Brave, successful committed Australians you can emulate, join on their journey and be touched by the sport.

“If we can’t do it in the next nine years towards Brisbane I don’t know when there is another opportunity to do so.”

Flemming, 58, is equally comfortable in a boardroom or a championship call room.

She won gold in the heptathlon and long jump at the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games and finished seventh in the heptathlon at both the 1988 Seoul Olympics and 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart. She still holds the Oceania heptathlon record of 6695.

Jane Flemming in action on the track

Jane Flemming in action on the track (© Getty Images)

In her corporate life as managing director of Flemming Promotions, she has developed and implemented multi-million dollar sponsorships for international companies including Cadbury, Samsung and British Airways.

As founding director of the Australian health initiative Live Life Get Active, Flemming has helped deliver thousands of free community-based health, fitness and nutrition classes. And still is.

She also presents as a natural frontwoman for her sport who is comfortable behind the microphone where she’s commentated on track and field at major championships for both domestic networks and international host broadcasters.

While Flemming is one of just 24 female presidents leading the 214 member federations around the world, World Athletics is running hard on establishing gender equity by adopting widespread reforms that mandate minimum gender targets in its constitution to establish parity at all levels of the sport’s governance.

Ahead of the World Athletics Championships Budapest 23, World Athletics achieved the milestone of 13 women and 13 men on the 26-member Council.

Not surprisingly, Flemming – who replaces fellow Australian female president Jan Swinhoe – wants her term to be marked by sporting excellence and gender parity on the world stage.

“My intent is to go hard and go hard for a number of years,” said Flemming, who is married with teenage twin boys.

Jane Flemming

Jane Flemming

She is also determined to promote her female credentials and the sport’s natural gender-equal base and structure.

“It’s a great time to be coming on board as a female president because I think the market is ready for us.

“There are ways we will be positioning our sport that will be quite synergistic with corporates and I don’t know if many of the other sports will have thought of them or have the ability.

“We are a gender-equal sport. We don’t have ‘women’s athletics’. It’s just athletics, men and women competing at the same time, in the same place, for the same prize money in pretty much the same events.

“We have more members of World Athletics than there are at the United Nations (193) – we have 214 participating countries.

“We’re the go-to for anyone who wants a career in sport.”

Louise Evans for World Athletics

Pages related to this article