Olympic spirit unleashed at St Joseph’s

St Joseph's School, Bracken Ridge

​Ian Thorpe and Paralympian Jacob Templeton with St Joseph’s student leaders and acting Principal Cheryl Bell

WITH only a year to go to the Tokyo Olympics, students at St Joseph’s School, Bracken Ridge, unleashed their ‘Olympic spirit’ to welcome retired swimming megastar Ian Thorpe and Paralympian Jacob Templeton to their school.

The two superstars of the swimming pool were at the school as part of the Australian Olympic Committee’s (AOC) new schools-based program, Olympic Unleashed, which brings athletes into classrooms throughout the state with an aim to inspire and motivate students to unleash their passion.

The aim of the program was to bring out the ‘Olympic Spirit’ in all students in Years 4 - 6 to pursue their passion whether that was in sport, the classroom, the playground or at home.

Through the program Olympians, Paralympians and athletes aspiring for Tokyo 2020 visit schools to help Queensland students be the best version of themselves.

The 45-minute interactive and engaging presentation involved the athletes sharing experiences from their Olympic and Paralympic journey that every student could learn from; how they set goals, overcame challenges and demonstrated perseverance to unleash their potential.

Both athletes were surprised but delighted to be welcomed with a song sung in Japanese by the Year 3 students who then left the hall to the Years 4-6 students.

Following an Acknowledgement of Country, the two guests spoke about their own goals and dreams they had as kids growing up, being part of the Olympics, what it was like to represent their country, standing on the winning podium and what life was like living in the Olympic village.

Tasmanian Templeton, who made his Paralympic debut at Rio 2016, spoke about how he overcame the news he was born with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease,

He said since he was diagnosed with the disease, he had been determined to become the best swimmer he could be since learning to swim as a child.  

Thorpe spoke about the pressures of becoming the youngest male ever to represent Australia at the age of 14, when he won the 400-metre freestyle at the 1998 Perth World Championships.

Thorpe, who specialised in freestyle, but also competed in backstroke and individual medley, won five Olympic gold medals, the most won by any Australian.

He also was the most successful athlete at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 Winning three gold and two silver medals.

He also revealed that as a kid he suffered from an allergy to Chlorine which he overcame the allergy to become one of Australia's most popular athletes, the first person to have been named Swimming World Swimmer of the Year four times, was the Australian Swimmer of the Year from 1999 to 2003 and recognised as the Young Australian of the Year in 2000. 

Following their presentations, the athletes opened up to the excited audience for questions and were hit with some beauties.

Student Tyler Mackay was impressed with the answer to his question he asked Thorpe

“I just wanted to know how much they trained to get into the Olympics,” Tyler said.

“It’s a lot I found out.

“Ian told us he was doing up to 30 training sessions a week when he was training.

“I’m only doing one a day.

“But it hasn’t put me off aiming for the Olympics one day.

“It’s actually encouraged me to think about doing more,” he said.

Tyler said listening to the athletes’ stories was very inspirational stuff.

“We were all really excited to see and hear what they had to say, and I was so glad Ian answered my question.

Student Mia Dack, who lined up like the rest of the students to get an autograph from the stars, said she was really excited to have Ian sign a special book she had brought in for the occasion.

“She told me who Ian Thorpe was and how he had inspired her when he was swimming for Australia, and how she had gone out and bought his book to read about his life.

“He was a real inspiration to her when he won all those world and Olympic medals and he overcame so many issues to become such a great swimmer.

“She will be so excited, so happy that I got him to sign her book.

“It was totally amazing,” she said.

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