Q&A WITH… GENEVIEVE GREGSON

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Country:  Australia

Profession: Athlete – 3000m Steeplechase

Career highlights:

  • 2x Olympian
  • 2016 Olympic finalist in the 5000m and 3000m Steeplechase
  • 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games finalist
  • Australian and Oceania record holder with a PB of 9.14.28

Genevieve is a middle-distance athlete born in Queensland, Australia. As a junior she won numerous races and awards, yet when offered a scholarship to go study at the University of Florida, she worried that that she would be “found out as an average athlete against all the college kids”.

Well, she need not have worried about that!

Genevieve has gone on to win a silver medal at the NCAA’s, compete at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games and is now preparing for the Tokyo Games. She was also chosen to be Australian team co-captain at the 2019 World Athletics Championships and is Australia’s best ever 3000m Steeplechaser.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing for her when she arrived in America. While studying for her Bachelors Degree in Applied physiology and kinesiology she went through a very difficult time personally when her parents divorced and she was on the other side of the world to her family. Then she struggled with injuries between the 2013 and 2016 seasons, starting when she broke her ankle at the Birmingham Diamond League. What followed was a cycle of “always rushing to qualify for the next championships” and never giving her body enough time to recover.

Now fully healthy and fit, Genevieve is married to fellow Australian Olympian Ryan Gregson  – also a middle-distance runner – and has settled into her new home in the USA.

She took some time out of her training to speak to us about her Tokyo preparations, why she chose the steeplechase as an event and the worst advice she has ever received.

Congratulations on your selection for the Olympic squad. What is the game plan heading into the Olympics?

Now that I have been selected for the Olympics in the 3000m steeplechase, I will head over to Europe to prepare for the European circuit. My aim is to practice competing in high calibre races to prepare for the Olympic final.

I would also love to qualify in the 10,000m so my plan is to give one race at this distance a go to see if I can get the automatic qualifying time. 

You were a 1500m athlete when you joined the Florida Gators, what made you fall in love with the 3000m steeplechase?

When I first started to compete for the Florida Gators I was mainly just a distance runner – predominantly cross-country. But in my freshman year we didn’t have an athlete to represent us in the 3000m steeplechase, and so I was thrown into the event. I ran okay and ended up thoroughly enjoying it so I decided to stick with it! 

Most elite athletes have to learn to tolerate pain, but Coach Nic Bideau has said about you that “she is never scared of pain” – how do you manage to push though when things begin to hurt?

Although it sounds cliche, I always tell myself that pain is temporary – it is not going to last very long – and this helps me to tolerate it much better. Also, when I get to the point of a session or race where it begins to hurt, I remind myself of all the work I have done up to that point that can get me through, and that helps me always mentally push through the rough stages.

How would describe a perfect day for you?

The perfect day starts with a sleep in with no alarm. Wake up and have a nice strong coffee, peanut butter, honey on toast and a banana.  Go for a long run. Shower and head to a cafe for brunch somewhere near the beach. Come home, relax and watch Netflix then maybe nap. To finish off an easy day I would end it out at my favourite Italian restaurant then finish again at home, tucked in bed watching a movie. 😊   

You studies a Bachelor of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology – what did you find most interesting about the course?

It was definitely its relevance to my life as an athlete. I found that most classes that I took had direct correlation to my everyday life training and competing, so it wasn’t just theory, I could apply it immediately to myself. I learnt so much and it enabled me to look after myself as an athlete and know a lot more about my body than I would have if I didn’t study.

You have said Spain is your favourite place to visit. What is your favourite travel memory from there?

Spain has been a popular training location for me and my group over the years. I love the Spanish lifestyle and culture – it is so laid back, the weather is perfect and the food is delicious! Some of my favourite memories are in Hoyos del Espino which is a rural, tiny town we would base out of. Going out to eat was so much fun because there were so many tasty authentic Spanish dishes.

What is the WORST advice you have ever been given?

The worst advice I was given as an athlete was being lighter was better. Over the years as a professional athlete I have learnt that the most important thing to do is fuel your body right. Without fuelling your body, you cannot perform or recover and therefore not reach your full potential as an athlete. 

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