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Jackie G: The Most Important Athlete In My Life

Updated: Nov 3, 2022

Jackie Gallagher Brett Sutton trisutto triathlon world champion

I’m not going to write about what a great athlete Jackie G was. Those who knew her all understand just how good she was. Those who didn’t need only look at her race results, which speak to what a giant she was in our sport.

The people who knew Jackie will be aware of how complicated and intense a person she was on a daily basis. With an IQ that looked like a cricket score, her great intellect could sometimes prove a great burden. Every decision was taken only after a thorough and painful analysis of every possible outcome.

It’s why upon her retirement from competitive racing she was able to become such a brilliant coach so quickly, and then rise rapidly through the ranks as an accomplished sport’s administrator. She had a world-class ability at getting to the bottom of problems (athletically and intellectually) and setting courses to overcome them. That so many distinguished athletes have emerged from her AIS Junior program is no coincidence.

Tragically, like many other highly talented people in this area, often the only person not to benefit from her gift for objective and intelligent insight was herself.

Jackie G once helped to pull me out of a very deep hole. It was at a camp in Switzerland and she suggested we become flatmates under the guise that she drove the other people in the squad mad with her music and moods. We both knew really it was because she didn’t want coach living alone. ‘When you’re down’ she argued, ‘I can kick you out of it and when I’m spiralling you’ll be there to pick me up.’

Jackie and I had clashed heads so many times over the course of her career that for her to make this offer left a deep impression.

I owe her a hell of a lot for the four months we lived together. While she’d play Barbara Streisand ad nauseum each day (she loved Barbara), she’d also challenge me on all types of non-triathlon related subjects and debate them endlessly to give me a lift. She’d also flay me about being a hermit and the need to rebuild and get on with life. It was at Jackie’s suggestion and later insistence that I ‘get over myself’ and ask Fiona, my future wife, out on our first date.

Returning home that night she was standing at the front door like Mother Hen:

How did that go? Make you any less grumpy you old git?”

It did. I’ve been progressively less grumpy ever since. Jackie’s importance to my life is reflected every time I look at my wife and beautiful daughters.

Thank you, Jackie. Yours is a great loss. RIP.

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