Running is in Selma Kajan’s blood.
Her mother Biba holds Bosnian 800-metre record, a time of two minutes and three seconds set 31 years ago – an event that is also Selma’s speciality.
Her dad Alija represented Yugoslavia in the 10,000 metres and is a 2:18 marathon runner.
Running brought Selma to Melbourne and Ballarat, where she has lived the past three years with her boyfriend, dual Olympian and professional middle-distance runner Collis Birmingham, and their dog Woody.
The Sydneysider does casual work at IBM in Mount Helen when home for the summer in between training with the impressive array of international athletes Birmingham brings to town to train in the Ballarat Project.
It is a move that has helped propel Kajan to her Olympic debut in Rio, allowing her to also join up with Melbourne Track Club and leading running coach Nic Bideau. This was about Kajan taking her race to the next level.
Kajan was the world’s fastest under-14 girl over 800 metres in 2005. She represented Australia at the world school games, world youth championships and Commonwealth youth games, also showing versatility as a cross country runner.
She got into running and little athletics by her parents but was highly self-driven to achieve, according to Randwick Botany Harriers president Jim Dawes.
“Selma never had to be pushed by her parents. She always really really enjoyed it,” Dawes said. “She moved to Melbourne to join the right squad (for her discipline). It was a bit difficult up her for her, because it’s more of a distance training squad, but she had to specialise.”
Dawes said the club, where Kajan’s parents were still actively involved, were so proud of her achievements. They have organised a function to watch Kajan’s 800-metre heats on Thursday, about 12.30am.
They know how incredibly hard she has worked to reach Rio, particularly in qualifying.
Kajan’s time hovered just outside the Olympic qualifying standard of two minutes, 1.5 seconds all season before she was struck by a virus mid-year. She recovered just in time to clock 2:01.27 in Barcelona just before the qualifying deadline.
“Selma is someone who tends to run from behind,” Dawes said. “Rio can get windy and that should suit her – and Selma is hitting form at the right time.”
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