Portia Bing – ‘working full-time allows me to be more than an athlete’

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Auckland hurdler Portia Bing says working full-time has given her the balance in her life she needed in a tough year.

Portia Bing at the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.

Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Like so many other athletes Bing would have liked to have competed at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, but has had to put that plan on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.

However instead of setting a new training plan and stretching everything out for another 12 months, Bing decided to get stuck into a career off the track.

“I decided during (the first) lockdown to start applying for jobs, I thought why not, take those different risks and try to create a slightly different version of what I want my athletics life to look like.”

The 27-year-old had been set to train on the Gold Coast in an attempt to qualify for this years Olympics, but returned home to Auckland.

She was going to be coach by Australian great Sally Pearson’s former coach Sharon Hannan, a short term plan to get her to the Olympics.

However, she returned home and got a full-time job with the Serious Fraud Office.

“They’re very supportive of people being well rounded and the whole idea of you don’t just have to be an athlete, you can have a career, build you career and be an Olympian at the same time, there’s no restriction on being one or the other.”

She admits it was a hectic time trying to train, thinking that the Olympics could still be on and finding a job at the same time.

Portia Bing wining the Women's 400m Hurdles, during the Sir Graeme Douglas International, Auckland 2020.

Photo: PHOTOSPORT

But the picture is now a lot clearer.

“Originally in 2020 I thought I’d re-evaluate after the Olympics, but now I sitting here thinking I’ve got a great career, I’ve got a great coach, a good training environment and a good balance.”

“I can do 2021 if I want and then there’s the World Champs and then the Commonwealth Games there is no limit or time frame on when I want to stop my athletics.”

Bing said she is in the perfect situation with her lifestyle and feels she could just keep going forever.

“That’s what I’ve come out with in 2020, a modified version of what my athletic careers looks like and long term I feel like it is significantly more sustainable and that really excites me.”

The first lockdown also resulted in a change of coach for the national record holder.

She had been led by Russ Hoggard, but the 91-year-old was in the vulnerable category because of Covid-19 and so Bing said it made sense to move to James Mortimer, a former national hurdles champion.

Hoggard still does a lot of mentoring for Bing and while she discusses things with him, he’s not involved on a day to day basis anymore.

Mortimer supports the environment she was after.

“I can work full-time and I can still be an athelete, which is actually one of the hardest things to find in an individual sport because the set-up allows me to be more than just an athlete,” says Bing.

Portia Bing, in the Women's 400m Hurdles, during the Sir Graeme Douglas International, Auckland 2020.

Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Bing just missed out on gaining an automatic qualifying time at last year’s World Championships in Doha, disqualified for an illegal hurdle after going within 0.01 of a second of the Tokyo standard.

She still hopes that the Olympics will go ahead next year, but admits she’s not worrying about that as much as she probably would have previously.

“The great thing for me is that I came home (from the Gold Coast) and established a different balance, so if there isn’t an Olympics, I do have other areas in my life and I think that’s making my sport a lot better now.”

“I thrive off having other things to go to, I absolutely love my job and the challenges that it brings and so I can go to work all day and then head to training and those different lives work really well for me.”

With Olympic qualifying opening up again in November Bing is planning on a summer of domestic competitions with the possibility that they might be able to compete in Australia at some stage.

While she’s competed at World Championships and Commonwealth Games, the Olympics have so far eluded her and Bing says “it remains on my bucket list.”

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