LONDON Paralympian Jodi Elkington still has to pinch herself at times as she relives her Games memories.
The Wodonga sprinter last year came fourth in the 4x100 relay and sixth in the 400 metres T37 category in front of huge crowds.
“It was such a wonderful feeling representing your country and competing in front of 80,000 people and listening to their cheering,” she said.
“It is something I will never forget.”
Elkington, who took up athletics at the age of 15, quickly impressed all with her dedication that led to leaving others in her wake.
Hard work and sheer determination helped her carve a name for herself and a place on the Australian Paralympic track team.
Elkington, 19, is now taking a well-deserved break from the track after four years of intensive training for what she describes as the big three.
“I had my heart set on competing in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010, the World Championships in Christchurch in 2011 and then the Paralympics in London, so it was all very intense,” she said.
Diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a toddler, the former Wodonga Senior Secondary School student took up athletics in 2008 after being inspired watching the Beijing Paralympics.
“I had been a swimmer and I had some injuries to my right elbow that kept me out of the pool so I took up running and I loved it,” she said.
“I had little experience apart from when I was six, attending a Little Athletics try-out day and stopping mid-race to yell out to mum to stop cheering so loud.
“We often laugh about it now.”
Elkington was recognised as a future star by the Wodonga Athletics Club.
Club president Kevin Muller said that at the London Paralympics she had performed very well against quality opposition.
“It was fantastic to see Jodi do so well,” he said.
Elkington recently moved to Sydney with her partner and is working as a personal trainer, while she decides whether to return to the world of athletics.
“I am staying fit and keeping my options open and looking at various Sydney athletic clubs but I am not too sure what I will do as yet,” she said.
“I miss the thrill of competition but not the training and after the London Games I realised how physically and mentally exhausted I was.”
Elkington attributes much of her success to Wodonga athletics coach Greg Simpson.
“He was great, he got me to the stage of being fit and able to compete and we both worked very hard,” she said.
In 2010 she moved to Canberra to train at the Australian Institute of Sport, which she enjoyed.
“It was a huge upheaval as I had to change from the Victorian education system to the ACT system but it was worth it and I gained such a lot from my time there,” she said.
“It was very intensive but very worthwhile.”
Elkington has always been grateful for the support from parents Cindy and David and brother Ted, who encouraged her to try whatever sport she was interested in.
“I did everything from swimming to netball, tennis and dancing and they always supported me in whatever I wanted to do so I have been very fortunate,” she said.
“They were there with me in London so it was a very special time.”
Elkington said she has never let cerebral palsy stand in her way and enjoys being able to inspire people with a disability.
“My advice to others with cerebral palsy or a disability who want to compete is to go out and give it your best shot and remember you can only get better,” she said.
“Even if things are challenging, there are always ways around them.”
Even if she doesn’t return to competition she says she will always enjoy running.
“It is a great feeling and I love it,” she says.
Her other great love is cooking and she makes a pretty good lemon chicken.
“I enjoy cooking for family and friends but I am definitely not a master chef,” she said.