Sport

Krishna Stanton recalls marathon bond with Jackie Fairweather and Kerryn McCann

She is the sole survivor of a triumphant moment in Australian sport, when three women and friends were bonded by a clean-sweep of marathon medals at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games.

But Krishna Stanton smiles first, then cries, looking at her framed silver medal and photograph, signed by Australian teammates that day – Kerryn McCann and Jackie Fairweather (nee Gallagher).

Krishna Stanton, Kerryn McCann and Jackie Fairweather (nee Gallagher)
Krishna Stanton, Kerryn McCann and Jackie Fairweather (nee Gallagher) 

Tragedy has taken them both. McCann died of cancer in 2008, while Fairweather ended her long battle with depression in Canberra last weekend.

"I feel so privileged to have run with them, to be friends and competitors," said Stanton, 48, now living in Brisbane. "They're two wonderful people and both so talented. 

"I admired them both, I don't think I'm in their category, I just happened to squeeze in the middle that day.

"So the first thing when I see that photo, I just think of happiness ... it was more about camaraderie. Those girls were so happy for me, I was so happy for them. That's a bit rare in competition.

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"That was my last race and it was so good to share it with those lovely girls ... there was so much good in them both, that's what makes me sad they're not here."

Stanton said she was blessed to have visited McCann, a two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist and mother of three, at her NSW Coledale home in the months before her death in 2008.

Last weekend, Stanton had been looking for Fairweather while competing at the Noosa Triathlon Festival, an event the 1996 world triathlon champion would normally attend as a competitor or commentator.

"Whenever we'd catch up it was just the same, we'd pick up where we left off and care about each other," Stanton said, not realising the extent of Fairweather's illness.

"I found it really sad it had to get to that. I've been through [suicide] with a work colleague a few years ago as well, you question yourself, what a shame she couldn't be reached in some way, to let her know how great she was at so many things."

Stanton roomed with McCann at Manchester in 2002, both mothers in their 30s who had been racing fun runs since they were 12. McCann entrenched herself as one of Australia's greatest female marathoners, the super mum defending her Commonwealth title with an inspirational run in Melbourne in 2006.

But Fairweather and Stanton were novices to marathons. Fairweather switched from triathlon and had just eight months' preparation, while Stanton was running only her second marathon.

"We were pretty sure Kerryn was going to win it, but we weren't sure about us," Stanton said. "I remember at 10 kilometres Jackie and I were running together, checking with each other, having a chat, saying 'how are you doing?'

"I think that event bonded us all for a long time. When you go through something that gruelling and get that result, there was a bond.

"We all had different personalities, but we accepted each other unconditionally. Kerryn was a gentle, beautiful soul until you put her on a starting line. Jackie was strong and caring, but more forthright. I don't know about me, resilient and determined, people would say.

"It was a culmination of years of competing against each other, but that last race was like we were there with each other."

Stanton (nee Wood), who trained with marathon world champion Rob de Castella at the AIS in Canberra from 1987-94, continues to run recreationally. She teaches at an all-boys college in Brisbane, also coaching cross country.

"I had a few health issues, in 2005, when I was diagnosed with coeliac disease and had a number of surgeries relating to that," she said. "I didn't think I'd be able to run ... now I do, because I can."

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