Jessy Byrnes in action. $Photo: Supplied.
Jessy Byrnes in action. $Photo: Supplied.

Jessy re-evaluates goals after tumultuous year

IRON-WILLED teenage cyclist Jessy Byrnes has put a tumultuous year behind her as she continues the unswerving pursuit of her sporting goals.

The exceptional Ipswich rider says a much-publicised year of turmoil led to a re-evaluation of her cycling targets.

Jessy's personal and sporting world changed forever of the morning of January 17 as she and her father Ray, 45, were on a training ride on the Warrego Highway outside Ipswich.

Jessy was riding behind her dad when he fell head-first on to a guard rail after a ute swerved in front of him.

While Mr Byrnes started down the road to recovery, eventually getting back on the bike himself, for Jessy, having not long turned 16, the ordeal tested her resilience and determination to follow her dreams.

Jessy, her gentle smile belying her cycling nickname "Pocket Rocket", shared the emotional impact of her father's accident.

"I took it hard because I was there with him and I felt it was kind of my fault in a way because, I don't know, I felt like I was helpless," Jessy said after her father recovered.

"It's a really bad feeling when you can't help someone when they're dying.

"When we were sitting in the room in the Ipswich Hospital and they said to us they didn't think he was going to live I said to mum, 'I'm never going to get on the bike again.'

"As dad was getting better I overcame that. I talked to a counsellor but it was a decision I made with the help of my family. Dad getting better lifted my spirits I guess."

On January 4, just before her dad's accident Jessy became the Queensland under 19 Women's Track Pursuit Champion, a title she has now won three years in a row. She broke the record last year and came within .6 of a second of breaking it again this year.

Jessy also won bronze in the Queensland under 19 Women's Track 500m sprints and from there was chosen to represent Queensland at the Australian Titles.

"But I wasn't able to attend due to dad's accident two weeks before and only 13 days after states," she said last week.

"I was also chosen to represent Australia in the Track and Road Youth Olympic Championships but then also was unable to attend."

In April, Jessy bravely went to Canberra to begin her quest for selection in the Australian under 19 team to compete at the Junior World Titles in Mexico.

"I went down there hoping for the best but with all the stress and everything it was a bad time in my life," Jessy said.

"I had two months off when dad had his accident and it set me back and then I got a chest infection, caused by everything put together all the stress and everything of dad's accident so now I'm just regaining my fitness for upcoming road and track races.

"I have just now with the help of my coach Mark Brady, who has been very supportive and a great inspiration, transferred my dreams and goal from this year to next."

Jessy is now aiming for the 2008 UCI Juniors Road and Track World Championships in Cape Town in South Africa next July.

"My sponsors Swanbank Enterprise Park and Investa have been great and I have signed an exciting deal with them for three years.

"They were wonderful through dad's accident and I look forward to an eventful year riding for them with pride."

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