Champion 100-metre sprinter Janiece Pollock was already up on the winner’s podium when she realised she had won a gold medal.
“I was shocked that they put the gold medal on me. I thought I had come second or third. It was very close,” she says.
Janiece, a 25-year-old athlete from Taita in Lower Hutt, has just had her most successful sporting year ever. “I just think about running and just do it,” she says. After winning gold in the 100m at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi in March, she won another gold medal for the long jump two days later and then came home to be celebrated as Wellington Disabled Sportsperson of the Year. Now she wonders what will come next.
Her World Games coach Shona McGahan says she kept telling Janiece that she could do better and she just kept rising to the challenge.” Janiece recorded two personal bests, running 100m in 16.24sec and jumping 2.99m. “It was beyond her wildest dreams. We hoped for it obviously. She was very disciplined, and she worked for it,” Shona says.
“In the first medal ceremony my coaches ended up crying. I was crying with them,” Janiece says.
It was highly emotional for everyone. “There were lots of tears. It was amazing,” Shona says.
Her Wellington athletics coach Chris Di Leva sees a change in Janiece. “The self-motivation is there now. She knows how good she can be,” he says. Chris says Janiece was disappointed that she didn’t reach 3m in the long jump but then came home and recorded a jump of 3.21m in a Special Olympics regional tournament. That was another personal best.
“I would love to see her jumping near 4m and I think she can do that. I just want to see her keep going. A lot of athletes give it away for one reason or another.”
Janiece is a member of the Special Olympics Wellington Club and competes in athletics in summer and basketball in winter. Chris has been working with her since 2012. He has coached her to two National Summer Games and the Trans-Tasman Tournament in Hamilton in 2016. He says her next challenge is to reach 3.5m in the long jump and to compete in the National Summer Games in 2021.
Her Mum, Katrina Moore, says Janiece has come home ‘sassy’. “It’s confidence – I have noticed it in all kinds of ways. I know she is super proud of what she has achieved.” Katrina hopes to see that confidence carry over into Janiece’s everyday life.
“My ambitions for Janiece aren’t directly related to sport. I want her to be independent and happy and be safe. I would like her to get more employment hours and try something other than hospitality.”
Photo caption: Janiece Pollock celebrates her gold medal win in the 100m with the Wellington support crew, including athlete Dom Faherty.
This story was published in Community Moves. The magazine is posted free to all IHC members.