AGE IS A NUMBERI’m 31 these days. At the recent Pan Pacific Championships up in Cairns, I did pretty well, coming away with five gold and a silver. I also did three PBs, two in the 400m freestyle and one in the 200 IM, so that was pretty cool.
How am I still swimming PBs at 31? I think it’s just a matter of enjoying the sport and constantly setting new challenges for myself. I’ve been swimming on the world stage since 2002, and I guess it’s just about enjoying it and making sure you’re kind of reinventing yourself every year or so to keep pace with the rest of the world.
I don’t hide away from stories of hardships. I’m quite proud of them. There was a lot of resilience needed to get through that period of my life. It has helped shape the man I am today.
If you’re going to keep improving, you need to keep doing things differently. In some ways in Paralympic swimming, there are a lot more limitations put in front of us than an Olympic athlete, so I guess there is always stuff we can work on – whether it’s fitness, technique, dry land training or even changing your diet.
It’s also important to keep my mind fresh. As athletes, we have a main goal that we focus towards whether it’s the Olympics, the Paralympics, the World Cup.
Whatever sport you’re going for, it’s a matter of simplifying things a little bit and making the process a little bit easier. For me that means giving myself small goals. So for this year, I have worked towards each major comp that I had, whether it was Commonwealth Games, Nationals, Pan Pacs just past, and the next goal would be the upcoming meet in Japan.
And I guess all the small goals are focusing on the big goal, which is the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
I’ve recently returned from a competition in Japan. It was great to get a feel for the country and meet the local people.
They’re incredibly humble and polite and they possess empathy, which will no doubt be appreciated by the Paralympic athletes. It looks like the Olympic and Paralympic infrastructure is about 80 per cent complete with a few years still to go before competition. Rio, from memory, was pretty much a hole in the ground at the corresponding period!
INSPIRING OTHERSI love public speaking. When I do it, I guess I don’t try and harp on my disability side of things too much. Instead I try to showcase what I’ve learned along the way and how I’ve dealt with challenges in my sporting career and in life.
It’s good to share my thoughts and hopefully inspire the people that I’m talking to, because a lot of people go about their day-to-day life doing what they do and obviously my life is very different. I guess it kind of brings stuff back home when you’re talking to them and they’re understanding what I do from a new perspective.
I gave a talk in Gosford a few weeks ago for Verto, a disability employment organisation. It was moving speaking to the young kids looking for jobs and telling them my story. I hope they got something out of the experience. I certainly did.
When I’m not training or doing public speaking, I work for Westpac. I’ve been there for eight-and-a-bit years working as a business analyst in the customer care centre, which is the call centre basically, in Sydney.
It’s great being in that role. It allows me to learn skills outside of my sport, but they’re also very supportive of my swimming which allows me to do my sport as well. So I’m lucky to have a good work life balance.
I love doing what I’m doing and I wouldn’t stop it just because I’m old in an athlete’s sense. I wake up sore a lot of days, but that’s not so much age as just the normal athlete feeling. You’re not training hard if you’re not waking up a little bit stiff and sore.
Don’t get me wrong: some days I want to turn off that alarm and go back to sleep. Getting up at 5am daily to get to training by 5.30am, then off to work by 7.30am, then back to training again in the afternoon, can get to you every now and then. But when you have a goal and a dream, you just can’t afford to give in to that.