Podcast with Giaan Rooney

Gold medallist and media personality Giaan Rooney talks about her past achievements and new ambitions.

I learned to swim when I was only three months old. I grew up in Queensland, so I was a water baby.
At my primary school swimming carnival, a friend asked me to join her swim club and I started going twice a week. I begged my parents to let me train more. I loved challenging myself. They said I could but school came first.

It’s important for me to have a dream as a goal, that’s what keeps me motivated.
I always knew I wanted to be in the media, even before swimming. I made sure that while I was swimming, wherever there were media opportunities I put my hand up for them. Someone told me, “It doesn’t matter what you do, you are going to have 50 percent of the population who loves what you do and 50 percent who hate what you do the best thing is to be true to yourself”. So I always try to just be me and make sure I can laugh at myself stuff-ups are inevitable.

I love how every day is different in TV.
Swimming training could be monotonous but TV is all very new and exciting. I’m doing the swimming commentary, the Victorian travel show Postcards, What’s Good For You and Wine and Dine, which is about wineries and restaurants. I love my job.

Trying to make time for fitness now is hard.
I never understood how hard it was to exercise if it wasn’t your job swimming was my job. I had big plans. I wanted to play netball and also do dancing classes things that were more team oriented. But I broke my ankle during Dancing on Ice in July last year. I’m hoping in a few months I will be back to doing what I want to do.

I decided to retire from swimming after the Commonwealth Games last year.
Finally I felt I didn’t have to prove myself any more. That’s a great feeling as an athlete. When I was younger I was really competitive. But by then I didn’t have the fire in my belly every day. I had it when it came to racing, but I didn’t have it for training.

I felt so proud to be able to represent my country and sing the national anthem.
I will never forget my first World Cup in 2001 in Japan. I won the 200m freestyle and it was one of those amazing moments when I felt that every lap was worth that moment in time. Athens was special, too. I was part of the four-by-100m medley team. We won an Olympic gold medal, which is the epitome of success in our sport.

I considered walking away from swimming in 2002.
I had just come off world championships, where I’d done so well. The pride I felt inspired me to train harder than I ever had. I had never felt more confident or happy. But a few weeks out, I started feeling sluggish, struggling to do simple things. As a sportsperson you know your body so well, but doctors told me I was fine. I went to the Commonwealth Games and did everything I could but in my event I came seventh. I was devastated because I knew I couldn’t work any harder. I thought maybe that was it for me.

I took a two-month break and realised just how strong I was.
I learned I’d had glandular fever it doesn’t show up on blood tests until after you’ve had it. My dad said, “You’ve worked so hard, you owe it to yourself to give it another shot or you might have regrets”. That was a turning point. I was 19. It taught me you have to have the low times to appreciate the highs in life. And it’s how you deal with it that makes you the person you are.

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