Jack Swift

Jack Swift

You may recognise Jack Swift as the lone swimmer in our latest commercial. You may recognise him from the London 2012 Paralympics. Either way, you’ll recognise this Cabernet drinker’s quiet determination in our recent interview with the athletics star turned triathlete.

HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN INTO SPORT?

I think it came from being involved in Aussie Rules football from a young age. I was always that sort of kid that would wake up in the morning and the first thing I did was check the sport results and read the paper back to front. So yes, from an early age I became interested in sports and that then translated into competing in sports. 

BUT THEN WHEN YOU WERE 21, YOU HAD A WORKPLACE ACCIDENT?

Yeah, I was pretty much straight out of school and I had been working on a construction site for just over 12 months. My job would generally entail – once the trenches had been excavated at about two metres deep and about 20 to 30 centimetres long – to lay the pipes in the ground. My job would be hopping down in the trench, laying a bedding of sand on the ground and making sure it was nice and level, so that the pipe would then sit nice and flush on the bottom.

So it was just like any other normal day, the excavator had done his job, he backed off, so that was my cue to hop down. At that exact same time I walked around the front of the truck, the excavator operator had seen something at the bottom of the trench, which was not completely level, and he thought that he’d quickly accelerate and dig that out with the excavator so I didn’t have to do that by hand. Before I turned and could get away, it already had hit me and it had crushed my right leg all the way up to my right knee joint and it proceeded to crush my left foot as well. It was a 14 tonne excavator and it only took that one second. When you are working with heavy machinery, one second of bad luck is going to be pretty unforgiving.

SO HOW DID YOU GET BACK INTO SPORT AFTER THAT?

When I lost my leg I was involved in athletics with a pretty much rehabilitation focus because I wanted to be able to run again. I used exercise early on as a mental tool to combat losing a leg later in life. What kept me going was the passion and the sense of achievement. Not from winning races, but the sense of self-achievement. Just from knowing that you put 100% in and you left no stone unturned to push your body to get out the absolute maximum that it can.

WHICH EVENTUALLY LED YOU TO THE LONDON 2012 PARALYMPICS. HOW WAS THAT?

It was amazing. The British public were amazing. I remember racing at the World Championships in 2011, a year before, there were about 4,000 people watching there. When going to London, I was thinking it may be double that or may be 10 to 15K. The British public got right behind it and every night and day session was sold out;  there were 80,000 plus. Coming from a hospital bed to competing against some of the best athletes in the world, all within a short period, was a massive achievement for me to get there at that stage. 

HOW DID YOU MOVE FROM ATHLETICS TO TRIATHLON THEN? 

Growing up I was always naturally better suited to endurance sports. I was never the fastest sprinter, but I was always a real good long-distance athlete and I competed in swimming and cross-country running all throughout high school. I just didn’t have that cycling background that is part of triathlons.

WHAT IS IT THAT YOU LOVE ABOUT TRIATHLON?

I love the fact that you are continually pushing yourself and testing your limits. And it’s not about beating other people, but about your improvement internally – especially in Paralympic sport and high-performance sport. You don’t just want to focus solely on results, but focus on year-on-year progression.

HOW DO YOU SUSTAIN THE DISCIPLINE TO TRAIN SO HARD?

You need to have a lot of self-motivation and you need good people around you. I have a good squad I train with that push me. And you need to love what you are doing. At the end of the day, nobody trains hard 365 days a year. And if you do, you are going to burn out and end up hating the sport or hate whatever you do. But as long as you have goals and then specific blocks of training or specific targets you aim for – that is what is going to keep you motivated. And for me I know what it is like to be stuck in a hospital bed for three months at a time. So any time I’m out hurting on a run, I say to myself that nothing can be as bad as being stuck in a hospital bed or being stuck in a wheelchair, so just enjoy the fact that you can run. 

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR THOSE CHASING EXCELLENCE IN THEIR OWN LIVES?

Well, if it is truly your passion or your dream, just never give up. You should have an overall goal of where you want to be in five, ten, fifteen years. But then you need to set goals inside of those goals. Maybe in a month, in a week, today of what you want to do. It’s about continual improvement in any facet – whether it be sport, business or study. Any facet of life is about continually improving and evolving. As long as you are doing something to better yourself from the previous day, I think you will be well on your way to chasing your dream and your passions.