Medal winning Olympians inspire QLD students

Meet with a Champ - QLD ©

Dane Bird-Smith and Emily Seebohm
Meet with a Champ - QLD

EDUCATION: It’s not your average Tuesday at school when you get the chance to meet three athletes who have a combined total of 14 Olympic medals including four gold, from six different Olympic Games. 

Students at Bracken Ridge State High School and St John Fisher College in Queensland experienced an exciting insight into the life of an elite athlete and Olympic champion this week, as swimmers Susie O’Neill and Emily Seebohm and athlete Dane Bird-Smith came to school to share their inspiring sporting careers.

The trio participated in the AOC’s ‘Meet with a Champ’ program and throughout the one-hour discussion shared experiences from how they became involved in their sport, the positive impact it’s had on their lives, as well as their journeys to Olympic Games.

For Dane Bird-Smith, who won a bronze medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in the men’s 20km walk, sharing his journey alongside two Olympic gold medallists was as exciting for him as it was for the students.

“I was alongside Emily Seebohm and Susie O’Neill, so was in pretty good company and I, like the students, was really interested to hear what they had to say as well,” said Bird-Smith who also reflected that coming from far north-Queensland meant he wasn’t often in the presence of inspiring Olympians.

“I never got the opportunity to hear from an Olympian.

“Although the one time I did meet one was when I was nine-years-old and when Susie O’Neill signed my T-Shirt,” laughed Bird-Smith reflecting on meeting O’Neill who has won a total of eight Olympic medals in the pool; two gold, four silver and two bronze.

“It was pretty cool to be sitting beside her sharing our stories.”

Despite representing Australia at six Olympic Games over a 14-year period, all three Olympians had a similar message for students.

“It was really clear that even though we came from different sports; Swimming and Athletics, we all had really similar things to say about our sporting careers and the difficulties we’ve had to overcome.”

For Emily Seebohm, who has two gold and two silver medals to her name, getting the chance to catch up with students of the same school she attended, St John Fisher College, was a nice experience.

“It was really good to see students from the High School I went to,” said 24-year-old Seebohm.

“They were really interested in stories they could apply to their schooling and fitting in extra activities like training and sport.”

Seebohm said the main message she wanted students to take away was to have fun and not take things too seriously.

“I think if you enjoy your sport or anything you do, you’re more likely to stick with it longer,” she said.

Bird-Smith, who is studying to be a teacher and has a passion for education, echoed the same words.

“The biggest thing we all agreed on was pursuing something that you love,” said Bird-Smith.

“Whatever you have a passion for, set aside time for it and make the sacrifices and at the end of the day it will all be worth it.

“We all had to make big sacrifices but it was for what we loved, but it was so worth it.”

Meet with a Champ is just one part of the a.s.p.i.r.e. school network, the AOC’s education program, which uses the Olympic sport traditions and values to teach life values and life skills.

Ashleigh Knight