Idaho Vandal ready for Olympic marathon
August 2, 2012
Danish, she’s British, she’s a Vandal; but when
alumna Jessica Draskau-Petersson lines up for
the Olympic marathon in London on August 5, it’s
her dad who will be the guiding hand in her
As her father, a rowing standout for Denmark
during the 1950s, wages a courageous battle with
Alzheimer’s disease, Draskau-Petersson will run
under her father’s native flag in his honor.
Her journey to London began in Idaho 12 years
ago. In 2000, Draskau-Petersson was at a
crossroads. A dual citizen of Denmark and the
Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown
Dependency, she had finished law school in the
United Kingdom, but couldn’t see herself as a
London corporate lawyer. She wanted to find a
bigger meaning for her life.
During her search, she won the Ella Olesen
scholarship, which annually provides for a
student from the Isle of Man to attend the
University of Idaho. Olesen, a long-time U-Idaho
registrar, provided a scholarship fund for
students from her native island to experience
Idaho. Draskau-Petersson earned a master’s
degree in international politics and law in
“I loved my time at University of Idaho and met
amazing people from all over the world,” through
the university’s international program, said
Draskau-Petersson. “I loved the spirit of the
place. There was always something going on, and
someone up for fun.”
It was her time on the Palouse that took her
interest in running marathons to a new level.
Friends loaned the athlete a bike and compelled
her to enter a sprint triathlon in nearby Walla
Walla, Wash. In her own words, she “became
addicted.” Soon after, she entered Ironman Utah
and Ironman Coeur d’Alene. Draskau-Petersson
finished fifth overall among pros and amateurs
combined in the 2003 Ironman Coeur d’Alene.
Following graduation, Draskau-Petersson competed
as a professional triathlete in 13 Ironmans, but
she endured multiple injuries from automobiles
hitting her bicycle. In 2008, she resigned
herself to knee surgery and then shifted gears
into a career in human resources. She spent two
years working at London’s Olympic Park, one of
the main sites of this summer’s Olympics, while
it was still under construction.
Draskau-Petersson’s father developed Alzheimer’s
disease in recent years, and his disease
progressed rapidly by the spring of 2012. She
wanted to give him something to look forward to,
and came up with an audacious plan: She would
represent his country in the Olympics.
Draskau-Petersson was no stranger to Denmark.
She lived there for the first 13 years of her
life before moving to her mother’s native isle.
After running the London Marathon in 2:34:56
this April, the Danish Olympic Committee happily
welcomed her to the Danish delegation headed for
True to form, Draskau-Petersson has made the
transition from working stiff to full-time
athlete in record time. A few weeks ago, she did
the 9-to-5. Now, she trains from dawn to dusk.
Tears in her calf muscles haven’t stopped her.
On Aug. 5, this Vandal will carry the
unconquerable spirit of Idaho with her in the
women’s marathon. She runs not for fame, fortune
or glory -- but for the love of her father.
For more information on Draskau-Petersson or the
2012 women’s Olympic marathon, please go to: