Olympic Games canoe sprint athletes from the NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS) have volunteered their time to help inspire and motivate some of the most promising sporting talent at Knox Grammar School.
London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Murray Stewart and 10-time world championship finalist Jo Brigden-Jones gave an online talk to the students about their training approaches to the current isolation period and providing advice for balancing sporting commitments with external influences.
Above: Murray Stewart shows students how he trains at home in isolation
Both athletes, already selected onto the Australian Olympic Team for Tokyo, were looking at the positives the isolation period has provided them.
“Rather than being stressed out about the sessions that I’m missing or the fact that the Olympics has been delayed, I’m actually taking an opportunity to do a few different things,” said Stewart.
“I’m working more, I’m keeping generally fit; but I’m trying not to stress out about things that I can’t control.”
“It’s really important to give yourself a break now because you’re [normally] training really hard and competing; always pushing yourself, always on the edge mentally and physically,” said Brigden-Jones.
Above: Athletes talk about their current experiences
“It’s important to keep communicating with your coaches and your mentors, your family and friends, and work out the best plan for you.”
As a working paramedic, Brigden-Jones also stressed the importance of having goals and ambitions outside of sport.
“It’s nice to have something to switch off to,” the 32-year-old continued.
“I think that’s what has helped us [stay] in the sport for such a long time because we’ve had different goals outside of our sport and I think it takes the pressure off you a little bit.”
Above: Athletes explain what their training looks like in the lead up to an Olympics
Knox Grammar Director of Sport, Kieran Donohue, spoke of the impact the Olympians had on the students.
“During these challenging times, some of our PEAK (Pathways for Elite Athletes at Knox) students have been struggling a bit coming to grips with the new reality of individual training and … key sporting events being cancelled,” he said.
“Having Jo and Murray present to the boys provided some serious perspective, as they were both facing a re-scheduled Olympic Games. [It] really gave the boys insight into how some of the best in the business are coping.”
Year 11 Knox Grammar swimmer, Joe Hamson, has been dealing with injury over the past months and drew inspiration from the various setbacks both athletes had overcome throughout their careers.
“It was great to hear how positive both Murray and Jo were about the changes that they were facing,” he said. “They encouraged us to think about how we can use this time to work on things we wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to do.”
“This time out of the pool has given me an opportunity to properly recover [from injury]. I have never really done these activities before, so it has been interesting doing something a bit different.”
Last year, Steven Solomon, another NSWIS scholarship holder and Olympic 400m runner, spoke to year 9 students at Knox as part of the Australian Olympic Committee’s ‘Olympics Unleashed’ program, in partnership with the NSW Government.
Knox Grammar have built a strong relationship with NSWIS off the back of their partnership in the creation of the Northern Metro Swimming Performance Hub in 2019, which now boasts the likes of highly acclaimed coach Simon Cusack as well as Australian swim stars Cate and Bronte Campbell.