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Canberra long jumper Jessica Penney selected for Commonwealth Games

Born in New Zealand. Raised in New Zealand. Representing Australia at the Commonwealth Games.

Now before the Kiwis start crying foul on another Phar Lap or Russell Crowe conspiracy, Canberra-based long jumper Jessica Penney doesn't have any regrets about choosing the green and gold over the All Black.

Penney finished fifth at the 2006 junior world championships while competing for New Zealand before relocating to Canberra at the end of 2010 to train under renowned athletics coach Craig Hilliard.

She made her senior debut for Australia at last year's World University Games in Russia and booked her spot on the plane to Glasgow by finishing second at this year's national titles.

The 25-year-old holds dual citizenship because her parents are Australian.

She changed her allegiance because of the superior athletics facilities and opportunities in Australia, having moved to Canberra to study engineering at ANU when the same course wasn't offered in her hometown of Wellington.


"The junior world champs were the pinnacle of my career at that point and I was quite excited,'' Penney said.

"I was getting a few offers from America because I did well at world juniors so I thought I'd give that a go.

"That was a fantastic opportunity, great set-up, great university, but athletics kind of wasn't happening, my long jump wasn't improving and I was going backwards.

"I was getting a bit homesick as well, so I thought Canberra looked like it had a good set-up to improve my athletics.''

After a couple of years at the University of Illinois, Penney did her research before making contact with Hilliard, who had trained Olympic Games silver medallist Jai Taurima and his wife Kerrie  (nee Perkins).

A bout of glandular fever put Penney out of commission for last year's domestic season before she recovered in time to represent Australia at the World University Games in Russia.

Penney is studying her honours in a bachelor of engineering at ANU while balancing work and also her athletics ambitions.

A second-placed finish at the national titles in April left her in contention, but because her personal best of 6.54 metres set in Canberra in February was a B-qualifier, her place in the Commonwealth Games team wasn't guaranteed until her name was read out on Thursday last week. 

It wasn't until her final jump at the nationals that she rose from fourth to second on the standings.

''I was getting a bit nervous and put a bit of pressure on myself because the nationals is the main comp for the season and it was the crucial one to be picked at,'' Penney said.

''Coming second definitely helped my selection.

"I wasn't sure if it was going to be enough because there were a few girls who had B-qualifiers, so to be told you're going to the Comm Games is really exciting.''