#AllezAUS 'Let's Go Australia'
Event: 20km Race Walk
Olympic History: Olympic debutant
Highlights: Competing at the 2018 World Race Walking Cup
Club: Mentone Athletics
Year Born: 2001
State Born: VIC
Race walker Bec Henderson’s start in athletics was by accident. “I started little athletics when I was about five because I went to watch my cousin's race after gymnastics one Saturday,” she said.
Bec decided it looked really fun and returned the next week. “I always tried my best but wasn't very good at most of the events when I was younger, I used to get really excited when I would come second last in the sprints.”
Even at an early age, the longer the race, the better Henderson was.
“In under 9s at my club we started the race walking and I gave it a go and won the race on my first attempt, which was very exciting as I'd never really won anything before. So I did some training with my dad and one of the coaches from my club and qualified for the state championships where I placed ninth. I really liked walking so I just kept training once or twice a week and just kept enjoying athletics.”
By 14, Henderson was already clocking impressive times of 53:44 for 10km. At 16, she was selected to represent Australia at the 2018 World Race Walking Championships in China where she placed 16th in the 42-person field. She continued to progress in 2019, now under 49 minutes for the 10km walk. In early 2020 she was set for a big year of international junior teams, but COVID shut down competition worldwide.
These were key school years for Henderson and she found it tough managing training and study.
“The biggest challenge I've faced is trying to juggle study, sport and work. Especially during year 12 I was very busy with study and sometimes it was hard to fit all my training in as well as continuing to work.”
Despite this, in 2019 she finished dux of Berwick College. In 2020 she commenced a Bachelor of Biomedical Science (Scholars) at Monash University.
“Starting Uni I was able to make study a bit more flexible as I was able to schedule classes around training more easily. But studying full time while trying to fit in all my training is still challenging, but I have been able to find some strategies that work for me to get everything done.“
Henderson certainly managed her study and training well in 2020 and responded in early 2021 with some outstanding performances, initially destroying her PBs over 5000m and 10,000m including silver in the national senior championships. Aged 19 in March she made a stunning 20km walk debut clocking 1:32.12 and five weeks later was even quicker with 1:31.53 for another silver in the national senior championship. The performance propelled her into the Australian All-Time top-15 and within a month onto the Olympic team for Tokyo. At the Olympic Games Henderson placed 38th in the stifling heat in Sapporo where she clocked 1:38.21.
Henderson is an extremely talented endurance athlete and has also competed in triathlon and marathon swimming. She has placed top 5 in multiple triathlon national championships as well as competing at the 2018 World Triathlon Championships. She has also been to five national open water championships, with her best placing fourth.