LOCAL LIFE: Meet local swimmer and Commonwealth Games hopeful Shayna Jack

13 March 2018

As one of the world’s biggest sporting events lands on our doorstep, we chat to local swimmer, Kingswim brand ambassador and Commonwealth Games hopeful, 19-year-old Shayna Jack, to find out what life is really like for a young athlete chasing gold medal glory.

When did you start swimming?

I started at the age of two just because my parents thought it was important for me to learn to swim. Whilst watching my two older brothers, who were doing learn to swim, one day the instructors said to just put me in with them and see how she goes. I ended up showing a bit of talent, and I continued from there! Ever since, I’ve always enjoyed being in the water. The feel of the water is something I can never get enough of… you can’t get me out of it!

Where do you train?

I swam at my first primary school – Greenbank State School. Then moved to Chandler Swimming Club when we moved to Redlands, and I trained at Chandler for nearly ten years whilst I went through primary school (Hilliard State School) and high school (Ormiston College). After that I decided to make another move in my swimming career and moved to an elite squad with more focus and opportunities, so now I train with Simon Cusack at Commercial Club, Brisbane. I’ve watched how Cate and Bronte Campbell have succeeded, now I train alongside them and hope for the same!

How old were you when you realised that swimming professionally and representing Australia was your goal?

I was around age nine and I remember meeting Libby Trickett and Ashley Callus at an Olympian day I went to with primary school. And I think that was when it really hit me, where I remember thinking ‘I want to be like that!’ Libby has always been my idol – she’s the one person I’ve always looked up to. The way she handles life and inspires people is amazing. So that was probably the point I decided I’m going to pursue this and make it more of a career than recreation. I always knew I had the talent, but from that point, representing Australia was always the dream.

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What was life like growing up, managing day-to-day life with high-level swimming?

It’s certainly been a journey, with lots of different highs and lows. At one stage my PB didn’t change for four years, which was tough to push through. And life was always a juggle. Both my parents worked, so I had to think about my family and what was convenient for them. My two older brothers swam along with me, so we all went to training together at Chandler. However, the one thing I always had in the back of my mind was the goal of making the Commonwealth Games, making the Olympics and being on that Australian team. So, any time I thought ‘I’m done’, or ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ I just kept pushing and thinking of those goals. I was lucky that I had a lot of support. I had sports scientists and my coach, and my family were always there for me whenever I needed anything. But it was difficult going through your teen years and seeing what works and what doesn’t work. You’ve got to try and push your body to the limit while it’s trying to make changes and adapt, and it was easy to get caught up in worrying about weight and shape. Thankfully when that did happen, Simon got my focus back by explaining what really matters – that as long as you are eating the right things to fuel your body to swim, you’re training as hard as you can, and you’re doing everything out of the pool to make sure you can train well and you’ve got a happy lifestyle, that’s what counts. That’s what I live by now, and in the end, it really worked for me. I became happier and I enjoyed swimming a lot more.

How do you feel now, preparing for your first Commonwealth Games?

Yes, this is my first real attempt! I’ve tried out for several when I was younger, the first when I was 13 – just to have a go! I didn’t expect to make it but it was a great experience racing with the other adults. So now, I’m just really excited! I can’t predict anything how it will go or what people might do. Someone might smash an amazing time, or someone might have a bad day. But as long as I do what I can do and control what I want to, then I’ll be happy with how it goes. It’s just such a thrill to have a chance of competing – we’ve always been a strong team, it would be an honour to be a part of that. What difference does it make, being on home soil? I think the home support is going to make a huge difference! It’s an instant adrenaline boost even thinking about it – just makes you want it so much more. The drive is so much higher just because people you know are there too. People that have been there every step of the way for you, who have been supporting you the whole time, it’s amazing they get to experience that with you.

What does training for the Commonwealth games entail?

Today I was up at seven o’clock and went to training at QAS (Queensland Academy of Sport). We had altitude training from 8–9am, where you go into a room and they turn down the oxygen and cycle for an hour. We were at 4,000 metres this morning. Then we do a Pilates session just to get the body moving, get a bit of core connection happening and get those little muscles firing. Then we did a gym session and then we went to the pool and did a recovery session which finished at 12pm. So that’s four hours of my day, and then back to training tomorrow morning! Three days a week we have morning and afternoon training, and three days we have morning training, with an average of 20 hours a week in the pool! We also have a training camp in Thredbo before the Games. We don’t tend to add more training – you don’t want to change what you’re doing before competition. But training at Thredbo at 1500 metres will be tough enough!

What advice do you have for a young athlete that might be considering pursuing a sport professionally?

Just to never let anything get in the way of that dream – it’s your dream and not someone else’s, so why let someone else stop you from getting there. You should be able to put 100 per cent into it, don’t feel like you’ve got to give less just because someone wants you to be somewhere else. With some things there’s always other pathways, but with sport it’s one of those things you’ve just got to go for. If you are going to be good at it, you will have to make a lot of sacrifices for that one career. But that’s the same with anything. My parents always told me no matter what – do what you want to do and if making the Olympics team is what you want to do then don’t let anything get in the way of that.

Do you have any tips for staying calm and focused before a race?

Well I think everyone is a bit different. Some people read, some people listen to music I’m a chatter so I have to be talking to somebody! I talk and talk and talk and then just before my race – goggles on, cap on, and I’m good to go. So mostly, it’s about trying to keep the adrenaline down until you race. Then the adrenaline is there to fire when you need it. But everybody has a different technique, it’s just about practicing and learning your routine. It’s always good to have a routine so that you don’t have to change anything with every single place you go. People usually falter when they have to change something. And on the day? Well, everything you’ve done for the last year just goes into one race – you have no idea how you’re going to feel or how you are going to go. You’ve just got to turn up and go out there and give it everything you’ve got! I couldn’t be more excited!

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Credit: Glen Hunt

Written by

Angela Sutherland

After spending over 20 years on the editorial desks of some the leading magazine publishing houses of London and Sydney, Angela swapped the city frenzy for a Queensland sea change. Now owner and editor of Kids on the Coast and Kids in the City, she loves spending her days documenting and travelling the crazy road of family life alongside every mum and dad. 

When she’s not at her desk buried in magazine stories, you’ll often find her entrenched in a heated game of beach cricket, or being utterly outrun by her inventive seven-year-old and rambunctious threenager.

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