Jana Pittman’s comment that her rivalry
with Tamsyn Lewis has brought a “very evil atmosphere” into the Australian
athletics team shows the team has not lost its resident drama queen.

Pittman most memorably established her
theatrical credentials in the lead-up to the 2004 Athens Olympics when we got to
follow all of her highs and lows, not to mention the endless tears, in her
exclusive column with the Herald Sun.

In fairness, it was a freak knee injury
that ultimately derailed her campaign, but it was Jana herself who said the pre-Games
exposure – most of it self-inflicted – had made her an emotional yo-yo.
Crestfallen, she pledged to concentrate on her running in the future.

Which makes it all the more surprising
she’s stirring the pot again now. Okay, she claims she’s not the one causing
the bad blood, but, come on, how do you expect Lewis to take it when before
their 400m final last Friday night Pittman said that she faced no real
competition? And then, after her dismal last place finish, that she would have
won the race when she was 15?

When she says it’s ruining the team
atmosphere, she’s also off the mark.

The banter in the papers prior to Friday
night actually created some interest in the trials, which before that had
everyone outside athletics circles yawning.

Over the long term, an on-going
Pittman-Lewis rivalry can only be good for Australian athletics. When women’s
athletics was at its peak in the seventies and early eighties, it was
spearheaded by the fierce rivalry between Raelene Boyle and Denise Boyd. Not
only did this drag people along to the track, it spurred both girls on to
dominate at the Commonwealth Games.

All of which takes us back to the
conclusion Pittman herself identified after the Athens Olympics – she should
just focus on her running. Because, unlike the Shane Warnes of the world, she
does not thrive on off-field dramas.

Peter Fray

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