Melanie Panayiotou at the Sunshine Coast Marathon.
Melanie Panayiotou at the Sunshine Coast Marathon. Ritchie Duce

Australia Zoo vet plots course to Rio Olympics

AUSTRALIA Zoo veterinarian Melanie Panayiotou has outlined her audacious plan to represent Australia at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The Mooloolaba runner will attempt to qualify for the Olympic and world championships teams when she contests Marathon Rotterdam next April.

"We were tossing up Rotterdam and London, but April seems like a good time for me to have a proper build-up and also have enough time to recover," she said.

"It's also got a good history of people recording personal bests there, so I should be able to get a good time."

The busy 30-year-old has become one of Australia's top marathon runners despite her busy schedule as head vet at Australia Zoo.

A relative newcomer to the sport, she was a shock inclusion in the Australian team for this year's Commonwealth Games after making her marathon debut in Melbourne only 10 months earlier.

Panayiotou came eighth at the Games and set a new personal best of two hours, 35 minutes and one second.

That time was more than six minutes quicker than her effort in Melbourne and Panayiotou believes she can shave another three minutes off her personal best in Rotterdam.

"I think because I'm late to the sport and I'm making rapid gains quickly, I should be able to get closer to that 2:32 time," she said.

"It sounds like a lot at the moment, but I think I have time to take more time off than the other girls do."

The time for Olympic qualification has not been set, but Panayiotou's first priority is qualifying for next August's world championships in Beijing.

If Panayiotou can represent Australia there, she will increase her chances of earning a spot on the national team to travel to Rio.

Australia will take only three female marathon runners to the world championships and Panayiotou's best time is behind Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Jessica Trengove and Nicki Chaple.

Panayiotou has set up an account on crowd-sourcing website Pozible to raise the $6000 she will need to compete in Europe.

Her boss, Terri Irwin, has donated an Australia Zoo Platinum Pass for two adults and two children worth $4000. It is available to anyone who donates $2800 to Panayiotou's account.

For more information, search "Melanie Panayiotou" at