Jackie Fairweather: Australian athletics community mourns death of world champion

Tim Gavel
ABC

The Australian triathlon and running community is mourning the death of former world champion Jackie Fairweather.

Fairweather (nee Gallagher), 46, was a legendary figure in the sport of triathlon, winning the world title in 1996 and finishing second three times.

In 1996 she also won the world duathlon title, becoming the first to win both the duathlon and the triathlon world crowns in the same year.

Fairweather switched to marathon running and won bronze in the 2002 Commonwealth Games.

She changed her name after marrying the Sydney Olympic archery gold medallist Simon Fairweather.

In recent times she has been working in high performance in the sport of elite canoe kayaking at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).

She took her own life on Sunday morning.

'Standout athlete' of the 1990s

Leading triathlon coach Ben Gathercole, who worked along Fairweather in Australian teams, said her achievement in winning the world triathlon and duathlon titles in the same year was hugely significant.

"She was a dual world champion which I don't believe has been repeated," he said.

"She was also just one of our standout athletes through the late 1990s with the short course, fast style racing Australia became known for in the early years of triathlon.

"She put it down on the race track every time at 100 per cent, was proud and always very happy to represent Australia and really lived by that through her athletics career, then into her coaching and her management."

Gathercole said on the flipside of her determined personality, Fairweather also had a softer side.

"I was lucky enough to see the other side of Jackie," he said.

"She was very giving, very caring, very loving towards her athletes and her fellow workmates and had a fantastic sense of humour."

Fairweather to be 'sorely missed' by friends, colleagues

The Australian Sports Commission's (ASC) chief executive said staff at the ASC and AIS were deeply saddened by the sudden passing of their friend and colleague.

Mr Hollingsworth said Fairweather was a renowned, world-class athlete and a richly gifted coach and sports administrator.

"Jackie was a true star of international triathlon and a highly respected and valued member of the Australian Sports Commission and our thoughts go out to her husband, family and friends in this difficult time," Mr Hollingsworth said.

"Jackie’s incredible achievements as an athlete have resulted in her being inducted into Triathlon Australia's Hall of Fame and she has also received the Australian Sports Medal for her contribution to Australian sport.

"She was a first-class coach being appointed as the inaugural coach of the AIS triathlon program, a position she held through until 2005, the year in which the program was awarded AIS Program of the Year.

"Jackie will be sorely missed by the many people whose lives are better for knowing her."

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