Friday, July 27, 2012

Inspired Olympic/Paralympic Edition - Jessica Smith

In the first edition of Inspired I thought it was only appropriate that on the eve of the London Olympic Games I interview former paralympian Jessica Smith. The 27-year-old is an ambassador with the Butterfly Foundation and represented Australia in swimming for eight years including in the S9 100m Butterfly at Athens. We chatted all thing Olympics, Paralympics, her role at the foundation and food and fashion in Perth - here's how it went:

With the Olympics/Paralympics starting this weekend what event are you most looking forward to seeing?
Oh gosh, there are so many but coming from a background of swimming I have to say I'm most looking forward to the men’s 100m freestyle final. James Magnussen is the current world champ, and with all the hype leading into the games it will be great to watch him hopefully take out the gold!
I am also eager to watch the final of the women's S9 100m Butterfly in the Paralympics. This was my pet event while I was competing, so I'm excited to see just how fast the girls are swimming at the moment. The London 2012 Paralympics start on August 29th, and the games are really starting to receive a lot of attention throughout the world, and it's awesome to see that our Aussie Paralympians are getting the recognition that they deserve.

How did you get involved in the sport?
I grew up in a very sporty family, my dad and three younger brothers were all extremely fit and active, so it was inevitable that sport would be a major part of life for me. Growing up I played just about every sport from tennis, soccer, hockey, netball, basketball but it was in the pool that I felt most at home. Swimming was my escape in many ways, and I started competing at the age of 10 and instantly I was obsessed! At the age of 13 I was selected onto my first Australian Team to compete in Europe, and after that I represented Australia for 8 consecutive years, and in 2004 I was selected onto the Athens Paralympic Swim Team.

What are some of your greatest memories of the Paralympics?
Having my entire family travel to Athens to watch me compete was really special. I moved away from home at a young age to pursue my swimming career, which meant that I missed out on a lot of family events and it also meant that they weren't able to see me compete too often, so having them all there in Greece cheering me on was so amazing. Other memorable moments were when Sally Pearson took out silver in the 100m Hurdles in 2008, her reaction afterward was priceless!
And you can't go past the Men's 4 x 100 Freestyle relay team who won gold in Sydney and then played the infamous air guitars after smashing the USA team!

Who is your biggest inspiration - can be sports star or other & why?
At the expense of sounding slightly cliché, I honestly take inspiration from anyone who has accomplished what they set out to achieve. There are a lot of people with big dreams and ideas, but few actually take the plunge and go for it. My grandad, aka 'Jimmy', was one of those people. I've never met anyone so zealous about life and so devoted to his family. Jimmy was a father of 10 and was also a sports fanatic, having played professional AFL most of his life. He captained the Geelong Cats winning Best and Fairest back in 1945, and was awarded a life member for his contribution to the game. He also played a season or two for St Kilda. His enthusiasm for all sports certainly rubbed off on me, and he was one person who told me that I could achieve whatever I wanted in life, just as long as I did it with integrity and respect. Unfortunately he passed away before 2004 and didn't get the chance to see me compete in Athens, but any time I dove into the water I was always thinking of him.

Tell us about your role in the Butterfly Foundation & why you became involved?
Growing up I struggled with a host of body image issues. I was born missing my left arm and then as a toddler, while struggling to get use to a new prosthetic limb,I accidentally knocked boiling water on myself and as a result I suffered 3rd degree burns to my neck and chest. From a very young age I knew that I looked different, and it was something that I really struggled to come to terms with. I had a really hard time accepting my appearance, I hated the attention that I received because of my ‘imperfections’.

At 14 I was diagnosed with bulimia & depression and, not long after, anorexia. I battled with eating disorders for more than a decade of my life. Although eating disorders are extremely complex, the main reason behind my behaviour was simply because I wasn’t able to accept my body as it was. My eating disorder and the mental anguish that came with it almost destroyed my life. I hit rock bottom both emotionally and physically in my early twenties, but thanks to the Butterfly Foundation I was able to access vital treatment at the right time.

The Butterfly Foundation is the only national not for profit organisation dedicated to bringing about change to our current culture, policy and practice in the prevention, treatment and support of those affected by eating disorders and negative body image. I’ve been in recovery for a few years now, and I feel that I have a responsibility to do what I can to help others who are also struggling with Eating Disorders and negative body Image. I do a lot of public and motivational speaking and I am currently an Ambassador at the Butterfly Foundation, working closely with them to create a revolution of positive change in our society.

A little bit of fun:

Favourite place to shop?
I’m still exploring the different shopping hubs throughout Perth, but I can’t seem to go past the funky boutiques in Leederville, like Atlas! One of my other favourites is Zara Bryson.

Favourite Perth designer?

A friend recently introduced me to The Butcher and The Crow. I love that each garment is made and manufactured here in WA. I also attended Perth Fashion Week earlier this year and really liked the collection from Zhivago.

Your favourite restaurant in Perth?

I have only been in Perth for a few months, but I have already found my favourite place to eat and drink in Mount Lawley, FIVE Bar. I eat there at least once a week! The food is divine, and the staff are amazing.

Favourite winter meal?
I’m vegetarian, so during winter I love getting creative with different veggie soup combinations. Can’t go past a good soup in winter!

For more information on Jessica or to see her speak visit Jessica Smith & to tell me about someone inspirational drop me an email at Cooking In Choos xo








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