Australia could have had its second princess, if bad luck hadn’t intervened in the romance between Jana Pittman and one of the richest and most eligible royals on the planet.
It was the start of the new millennium and after hosting a gala awards night for the world’s most talented track athletes, Prince Albert of Monaco decided to hit Monte Carlo’s biggest nightclub.
“I was on the dance floor when a nice-looking gent with an American accent said, ‘Hi, I’m Albert,’ ” says Jana, who reveals her brush with royalty for the first time in her autobiography Just Another Hurdle.
“I’d seen his face at the awards night, but in the club he was just a smoothly dressed guy with a beautiful smile and I had no idea he was a prince."
"He brought me a drink, then we went to a quieter area of the club to talk.”
The then 18-year-old Jana, who had earlier in the evening won the Rising Star of the Year Award (after claiming two gold medals at the IAAF World Junior Championships), was smitten by the suave, polite stranger, despite their 25-year age difference.
“He held my elbow as we stepped out of the club, and opened the car door for me,” gushes Jana, now 34, who accepted a lift back to her hotel.
“As we walked to the car, I found it interesting that every person we passed kept nodding, which made me think, ‘Wow, this guy knows everyone!’
“It was only a short drive but he took the long route to show me a few sights. Monte Carlo at night was even more beautiful than during the day, the glistening lights flickering against the water.
“Finally we arrived back at the grand entrance of my hotel. He climbed out, a true gentleman, and opened my door for me.”
The pair organised a date for the following night.
For the full story on Jana's romance with Prince Albert and to find out how the rest of their date played out, get the latest issue of Woman's Day - on sale now!