Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Shell-shocked: Michelle Jenneke Goes Viral

by Drew Martin
The video that went viral of Michelle “Shelly” Jenneke warming up and winning her heat for the 100 meter hurdles at the 2012 World Junior Championships in Barcelona this July, brought on 14 million views (to date), Australian pride, marriage proposals and jealousy rants. Jenneke prepared for her race by dancing in place, shaking off her nerves and getting psyched up. From the stands she would have appeared as a far-off, fidgeting speck but the zoom-lens close-up and the slow-motion replay matched with a number of dance tracks stole the fleeting moment and turned it into a never-ending lap(top) dance for YouTube viewers. The brilliant filmmaker Stanley Kubrick loved commercials for their ability to tell an entire story in a minute. I think he would be fascinated by the short Jenneke video because of the set-up. You cannot take your eyes off her and then she goes on to win the race by a full stride, so you feel rewarded because you are rooting for her even though you know nothing about her. The fastest man on Earth, Usain Bolt glamorizes the thrill of speed but running any distance of a mile or more conjures up pain and agony, and men and women who have run themselves down to their bones. Malcolm Gladwell captures this so well in this week’s The New Yorker article on running, Slackers: Alberto Salazar and the art of exhaustion…especially in the quote from Salazar…”I crossed the line and did not so much collapse as disintegrate.” Jenneke adds something to this sport that has been reserved for posturing sprinters and disciplined long distance runners, pure joy. Her bouncy gyrations shatter a repressed view of a sport that is naturally sexy. Jenneke pulls off the thin veil of times, bib numbers, lanes and corporate sponsors. Alenka Bikar from Ljubljana is no stranger to this. “The Pride of Slovenia” is known better for her derriere than her 200 meter performances. But why is this surprising? As Christopher McDougall points out in his best-seller, Born to Run, humans have large buttock muscles because of our natural running talent.