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Donna MacFarlane

Donna MacFarlane

[11.41 a.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, in November last year, athlete Donna MacFarlane was inducted into the Tasmanian Sporting Hall of Fame. At the award presentation, Donna, who I can proudly say is also my niece, reflected on her international athletics career.

She was a 2006 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, a 2008 Olympian, a two-time World Championships representative and a former Australian record holder.

She was also a middle distance and steeplechase runner who set an Australian record in the women's 3000-metre steeplechase at the 2008 International Association of Athletics Federations Golden League meeting in Norway.

Despite knocking her knee and stumbling at the last barrier, she recovered quickly and in a sprint finish, went from fourth to second. This record stood for eight years.

Donna is an inspiring and courageous athlete who is proof that it is entirely possible to make a comeback regardless of what happens along the journey - an inspiration to us all.

Her career began in 1996, when she won the Australian Junior Cross Country title and a couple of junior track titles later the same season. She began experimenting with steeplechase and, competing as Donna Tyberek, won the Australian under-20 titles over 800 metres, 1500 metres and cross-country.

In 2000 she won the senior bronze medal in the 3000-metre steeplechase at the Australian Athletics Championships at Olympic Stadium in Sydney, the event's inaugural year for women.

After Sydney she took a break from professional athletics to focus on starting a family, which now includes three wonderful children, Marcella, Gabriel and Elodie. Five years on, she returned to running, intending to get fit, and entered a fun run in Hobart.

However, guided by new coach Max Cherry and with the help of a group of teenage training partners, she made a stellar return to the professional scene as a 3000-metre steeplechase specialist. She improved her best times over every distance, from 400 metres to 10 kilometres.

One year after returning to running, Donna was selected for the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, making an immediate impact by winning a bronze in the 3000-metre steeplechase. Immediately following the Commonwealth Games, Donna helped Australia to a team bronze medal in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.

However, tragedy struck at the 2007 World Athletics Championships in Osaka, Japan, when a competitor accidentally trod on her foot inside the first 50 metres of the race, tearing her shoe off. She continued for a lap and a half before withdrawing from the race. After the race, when interviewed, she said -

I tried to battle through and ignore the pain in my foot as I could feel the skin turning away.

She continues -

But I had a look down and saw the blood pouring out and it was just too sore. I thought, I can't do another six laps.

Tragedy struck again in April in 2008 with the sudden death of Max Cherry shortly before the Beijing Olympics. Donna was ranked fifth in the world, which meant she was under enormous pressure to perform. She ran in the last heat of the 3000-metre steeplechase but finished four seconds outside the qualifying time. Her time of 9 minutes 32 seconds was 14 seconds short of her personal best.

Donna ended her international athletics competition with the 2009 World Championships in Athletics in Berlin. She now resides in Western Australia and despite being born in Victoria, still refers to visiting her parents in Hobart as going home.

She moved to Launceston when she was just two years old and attended Larmenier Catholic Primary School up to year 6 and Mount Carmel in Hobart to year 12.

Now a freelance writer, she enjoys running and passing on Max Cherry's words of wisdom. She says -

At the end of my career there are so many positive things to look back on; so many things Max taught me; life skills that I still use to teach my children.

Marcella's getting a bit faster than me now. I tell her, 'Run tall and lightly. You don't want to hear your footsteps on the ground, otherwise all your energy is going into that.'

Mr President, the Tasmanian Sporting Hall of Fame honours outstanding Tasmanian sportspeople who have represented our state at the highest level and ensures their achievements receive the recognition they deserve.

Donna is indeed a wonderful role model for someone who made a comeback as an elite athlete and achieved so much for her family and her country. Well done, Donna.

Mr PRESIDENT - She is also a good junior swimmer, as you probably know.

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