Em Rusciano: "I had a point to prove to myself"



When I was a kid I was a gun track athlete.

Yep. I refuse to cut my tall poppy teenage self down. It’s just how it was.

I trained like a possessed work horse and reaped the benefits of that. I won my first national title at the age of ten and continued to be the one of the best hurdlers (and best high jumpers for a period of time) in the country for my age group.

That all ended around the time I turned 18. I was competing at the state aerobic championship (Grand Father Ted affectionately called me the “over-achieving little shit”) and managed to tear both my hamstrings while completing some aggressive high kicks. You know, the ones where they throw their legs up in between outstretched jazz hands, all while smiling maniacally.

After that, my athletic career came to an abrupt halt as torn hamstrings (we’re talking nearly off the bone) and stress fractures in the spine (from over training) are basically impossible to come back from. This also killed off my dream of a Sydney Olympic berth.

For 15 years I busied myself with other things. Giving birth blah blah, Australian Idol blah blah, radio shows, giving birth again, oh and getting married blah blah. All of that was just a build up, the support act, the ENTREE to me making my magnificent athletic comeback. And now it has happened.

Friends – for the first time in 15 years I competed in an athletic event on Saturday and it was bloody marvelous.

Had I done ANY training whatsoever to prepare myself? Pfffft no. Training is for girls. Sorry? Did I think about the long term effects on my ability to walk or sit down or to go to the toilet after said competition ended? Pfffft no. Thinking is for girls.

For too long I had put this off. Why? Well, I was worried about a multitude of things..

1. My body has pumped out two small humans, it doesn’t look at tight as it did when I was 18. The uniform involves a lycra crop top. Sure, I could wear the men’s singlet but that is nowhere near as cute.

2. Oh GOD the skin on my stomach wobbles when I run – like an elephant’s ear but not quite so grey.

3. If I put egg whites on my stomach to tighten it, will they cook in the sun?

4. I am still VERY good in my MIND. How will I cope with not measuring up to that on the day?!

5. I have done NO track training. Sure, I jog each day and have put in some solid dance floor time but nothing that involves moving in short powerful bursts.

Em, rocking the crop top

6. Oh GOD the skin on my stomach wobbles when I run.

You see where my priorities lay. I put all that aside and just decided to bite the bullet, turn up and join the Athletics Club that my daughter belongs to. They handed over the crop top AND the singlet and I wore both… Just so I had the option.

My first event was to be the high jump. Sure, I had two old stress fractures in my spine and had not done any sort of dynamic movement through that area in 15 years. I didn’t care. I was a woman possessed. I had a point to prove to myself and anyone else who cared to listen to me bang on about how good I was as a kid.


As I waited for the event to start I noticed a line forming near an elderly lady with a clip board. I took no mind as I did some warm ups and mentally readied myself for the jumping.

“The event is now closed,” Old lady with clipboard yelled.

Wait? What? The event is now closed? But I… That’s not right!

I AM TRYING TO MAKE A MAGNIFICENT COME BACK old lady with clipboard! What the shit?

Turns out friends, you gotta put your name down to compete and it’s first in best dressed. Only 15 spots are available.

Rusciano missed out but now Rusciano knows the rules.

If anyone gets in Rusciano’s way for the next event they will feel her steel.

Triple Jump was in my sights. I waited until 10 minutes before the event and located my target. Old man with clip board and jaunty sun hat. I went and stood right next to him and smiled. I casually mentioned it was my first event in 15 years and how it meant so much to be able to do this in front of my children (I pointed out some random kids in the crowd, as my kids weren’t there) and he seemed receptive. He called the event “open” and promptly handed me the clipboard.

HUZZAH! Rusciano was first cab off the rank! Thanks old man with clipboard and jaunty sun hat.

I ended up jumping pretty well. I won my division and also broke the Triple Jump record for my club’s 30-35yr old category…

Who am I trying to fool with ‘pretty well’? I WAS EPIC.

I still had skill. I was still good at it. No-one laughed at me and as I was careful to position myself next to the over 60’s, any time I took my top off, no-one cared about my stomach!

I also competed in the 4x400m relay and ran a very strong second leg.

I am hooked now. I don’t know why I waited so long to do it.

Driving home I teared up a little. I actually felt proud of myself, which is a nice escape from the usual self loathing.

If there is something you loved doing as a kid I encourage you to seek it out and do it again. I felt alive. I felt powerful. I felt like I was reclaiming young, carefree Em back from old responsibility-laden Em.

I’m actually considering competing in the world masters games at some point.


Em Rusciano is the host of Mamamia Today on Austereo (which you should be tuning into at 3pm every weekday on the Today Network) and regularly appears on Network Ten’s ’The Project’. You should follow her on Twitter here and take a look at her website here. You can listen to podcasts of Mamamia today here.

What do you miss most from your childhood? Did you have a childhood dream you were never able to fulfill? Are you game to give it a go today?