Leanne Pompeani’s breakthrough performance in the Sydney 10 kilometre event in May propelled her into contention for the Australian track and field team for this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Leanne ran 31.45 to become the second-fastest Australian woman over 10 kilometres on home soil and the third-fastest anywhere in the world.
The performance has put her within sight of an automatic Commonwealth Games qualifier. This achievement seemed like a long shot even a couple of months ago as she struggled with injury.
“Given the injury in December-January, the race in Sydney was a surprise,” says Leanne.
“I hadn’t really thought about making the team for the Commonwealth Games.”
Leanne now faces a race against time to better her time. Effectively, she needs to shave another 20 seconds off the time she ran in Sydney or hope for a discretionary pick if her next race in Tasmania is fast.
She is doing everything possible.
She trains with her coach Des Proctor, who taught her in Year 8 when she was a scholarship soccer player, before transitioning to athletics.
“I never thought I would leave soccer. I was playing for Canberra FC and I was running a bit. I realised I couldn’t do both and decided to focus on running.”
Six months later, she was in the Australian junior team for the World Cross Country titles. Then in 2019 she made the team for the senior World Championships in Denmark.
This brings us to the present day and 25-year-old Leanne’s monumental battle.
She’s entered to run the 10-kilometre at the Gold Coast Marathon on 3 July, but the qualification period for the Commonwealth Games ends before the Gold Coast race.
The Commonwealth Games begins on 28 July, which means she really only has one shot at recording a qualifying time and that will be in Launceston.
“I am running the Launceston 10k on 12 June and will try to run fast there. So I am running both the Launceston 10k and Gold Coast 10k and hoping that will be enough. But if not, I am eyeing off the World Cross Country in Australia in 2023 and the Paris Olympics in 2024.”
But there is always the possibility of a discretionary decision from the selectors if she gets close, but her preference is to run the qualifying time.
Leanne has doubts about the tight timeframe.
“I almost feel as though there isn’t enough time and there aren’t many 10 kilometre races in Australia. I would love to make the Commonwealth Games team, but I wasn’t expecting to be this close.”
Combining work as a part-time gym manager and running up to 160 kilometres a week through the trails of Stromlo, Mt Ainslie and Isaacs Ridge, Leanne is determined to do her best on the Gold Coast.
Beyond the Commonwealth Games, Leanne has set her sights on next year’s World Cross Country titles in Bathurst. She is also looking at moving up to the marathon distance by the time of the Paris 2024 Olympics.
She still has plenty of time from an overall career perspective. Sinead Diver was 44 years of age when she competed for Australia in the marathon at the Tokyo Olympics, while Lisa Weightman, who won the Sydney 10 kilometre in the fastest time ever by an Australian woman in Australia, is 43 years of age.
For the moment, though, the focus for Leanne is on setting a cracking pace in the 10-kilometre in Launceston so a Commonwealth Games spot will be in no doubt.