The learning curve kicked in for Jenna Martin on the straight-away. She’s won 400-metres races before, but this was nothing like anything she experienced. Put her down as one of the Canadian athletes already looking ahead to 2016 and Rio de Janiero.
“This experience … you learn so much,” the 24-year-old native of Bridgewater, N.S., said after failing to qualify for Saturday night’s women’s 400-metres event at 2012 London Olympics.
Martin fought for breath. She struggled at times for words. She was at the front coming out of the first corner and half-way down the track before the pack passed her. She was in last place coming down the stretch but pushed hard to move past Joy Sakari of Kenya. Martin’s time, 52.83, was the second-slowest of the 24 semi-finalists and almost two full seconds behind the last qualifier for the finalist, Rosemarie Whyte of Jamaica. Before making her way through the mixed zone, the University of Kentucky runner stopped at the top of the stairs and crouched on her haunches, watching the last semi-final heat.
The two-time Canadian champion, whose personal best of 51.53 was set in the Canadian Olympic trials, qualified with a time of 51.98 on Friday night. That time tied for 14th overall in the qualifiers.
“My body just didn’t respond,” Martin said. “I did everything I usually do to recover. The next time here, I’ll be a more mature athlete and I’ll expect to do better.”
Martin was on the outside in lane 9. “No man’s land,” she said, with a soft chuckle. “I may have pushed it too hard in the beginning but, you know, that’s just something I can feed off of and use it to get better. It’s easier to get out harder than get out slow and try to pick it up.”