100M HURDLER - JESSICA HUNTER
From representing Great Britain in the 100m hurdle in Napoli at the 2019 Summer Universiade to last year’s European Athletics Championships in Munich, Jessica Hunter is a force to be reckoned with. Getting into athletics at the age of thirteen and with more than a decade’s worth of experience, we had the opportunity to sit down with her and delve into her profession, her passion for athletics and her dedication to growth in female sport.
Tell us about yourself?
My name is Jessica Hunter, I’m a 100m hurdler for Great Britain. It was at the World University Games in 2019 that I first represented the country, that was in Napoli. The most recent one now was last year in Munich at the European Championships.
When did you first get into sprinting?
I was 13 when I started athletics, did it for a year. Unfortunately, I moved house soon after and couldn’t get back into it until I was 16. I competed as a heptathlete at first for roughly two years, before I decided to specialize in the 100m hurdles. My decision was a combination of it being my best event and because I had always enjoyed jumping and sprinting.
What's the best thing your sport has taught you?
How to be resilient and disciplined, one year you might be number one and the best in your field, then the next you could be out due to an injury. So, when motivation waivers it’s discipline that keeps you working hard towards achieving your goals and resilience that helps you bounce back after the lows of injuries.
What advice do you have for young girls that want to get into sprinting or sports in general?
To go for it, have fun in the process; look for a local club and progress from there. Always aim high because if you believe you can achieve something and you tell yourself you can, nine times out of ten, you’ll make it.
What sporting achievement are you most proud of?
It would have to be achieving the Commonwealth Games standard and my first senior GB vest at the European Championships. I won my heat and ran a personal best to qualify for it, I had been out of the sport for two years due to injuries I had sustained and the pandemic, so this was a proud moment.
Do you remember the moment you realized athletics could be a career for you?
I had become number one in my age group for the 60m and 100m hurdles in the junior rankings. That got me thinking that perhaps I could make something out of this, especially since it had been a couple of years since I had taken the sport more seriously.
As a woman did you ever have doubts about becoming a professional athlete? What changed your mind?
When I was younger, there were doubts about being a female professional athlete. Society, for a very long time perpetuated the idea that women with muscles weren’t ‘pretty’ but seeing some of my female idols win gold at the recent Olympics, I was in awe of not only their achievement but their physique. I saw their figures as the result of all the hard work they’d put in and from there on I was inspired to not only welcome but embrace muscle growth.
Do you think women in athletics receive enough representation/ recognition in society? If not, what do you think would help achieve a more equal level of representation?
In track and field specifically, I think it is an equal level of representation as at major competitions, female and male categories are evenly integrated, resulting in the same coverage and exposure.
How has social media, in your opinion, helped to change the perception of women’s professional sport?
I think it has improved the perception, it has given us a platform to connect and inspire the younger generation. It has allowed us to share real-life insights to the highs and lows of our sporting journeys.
If you could, what’s one thing you would change about your sport from a woman’s perspective?
It would have to have improved maternity clauses in sponsorship contracts, it can be tough to get the right support pre and post-pregnancy.