JESSICA Judd’s European Cross-Country Championships debut is one she won’t forget in a hurry.
The Canvey teenager landed back in Britain yesterday with a gold medal in her pocket, but after a weekend that involved an epic journey and a race that Judd remembers very little about.
The King John School sixth-former was part of the gold medal-winning Great Britain junior women’s team, finishing 13th in snowy and freezing conditions in Budapest.
Judd believed she was on course for a medal at one stage of the race, but found herself stricken by the minus six degrees temperatures with about 1km to go.
She battled to the finishing line, but passed out straight afterwards and woke up in the medical area to the sound of the British national anthem, being played to mark her team’s golden triumph.
“I came round to hear the anthem,” said Judd, 17. “I wanted to get up and go and get my medal, but I had four blankets wrapped around me and the medics said I couldn’t go anywhere because I was being treated for hypothermia.
“I remember thinking ‘are you joking? I’ve worked so hard to get here, I want to get my medal!’ “It was frustrating because I was feeling really good at the start. I was right up at the front and felt so good and I thought I could get a (individual) medal.
“But then suddenly the adrenalin wore off and the cold hit me and I just couldn’t feel my legs. Just getting one leg in front of the other was a real effort and then I got kicked in the back of the leg by one of the Turkish girls and that made it worse.
“All the flow in my legs went and I just needed to get to the finish. I knew I had to do it for the team. I’m not sure I would have made it if I was running on my own.”
Judd did enough to finish as they fourth and final British scorer to ensure the team retained their title – not that the Chelmsford AC athlete knew that at the time.
“I just blacked out,” she said. “I don’t remember anything of the last 600m. “You would think I’d be used to the cold coming from Canvey, but this was unbelievable and quite scary. I couldn’t feel anything below my neck. The medics were saying ‘wiggle your toes’ and I just couldn’t.
“I’m really happy just to have finished the race. I was slightly disappointed because I thought at one point I could get a medal. But the cold was so hard to deal with. I don’t think I could have done anything more.
“It’s made me want to return next year and maybe see if I can get a medal.”
Judd will be hoping next year’s race in Belgrade, Serbia, is slightly warmer and a bit easier to get to.
The British team’s flight to Budapest was cancelled because of a fire at the airport in the Hungarian capital. They were diverted to Vienna and then had to make a three-hour bus ride to Budapest.
“I left my home on Canvey at 7.30am in the morning and finally got into the hotel in Budapest at 1.30am Saturday morning,” said Judd. “It was an absolute nightmare.”