Two times world champion, four times Commonwealth champion, in the sport of athletics, Jana Pittman swapped the track for the ice, joining the Australian Women’s bobsleigh team, to become the first women to represent Australia in both a Summer and Winter Olympic games.
Jana is one of only nine international athletic champions (along with the likes of Valerie Adams and Usain Bolt) who have won world championships at youth, junior and open athletic events.
Jana is now studying a Bachelor of Medicine & Surgery at the Western Sydney University. She is mum to 8-year-old Cornelis and little sister Emily, born last year in April. She also runs her own health, fitness and motivational speaking business.
Along with her studies, parenting a-d working on her business Jana is now training hard to qualify for the upcoming Rio Olympics.
Here Jana Pittman describes some of the influences that have brought her to where she is today.
MY FATHER, BRIAN PITTMAN
I owe so much to my mother for the thousands of hours driving me around to training and events and just sitting around waiting, waiting, waiting for me all the time… but my Dad and his extraordinary work ethic have had a huge influence on my life. Dad was so committed to hard work. He would leave for work at four in the morning and get home just in time to tuck us in bed at night. The only days I can recall him having off were the couple of days a year he took off to see me compete in state or national championships. It was Dad who initially encouraged me to be an athlete and it was his commitment to ridiculously hard work and single minded determination that influenced the kind of athlete that I became.
TWO COACHES… JACKIE BYRNES AND PHIL KING
I have had around eight coaches in my athletics career but two stand out as being especially influential. I can’t pick between the two of them as to which is most important to me.
Jackie Byrnes coached me to a junior world title back in 1999 (U18) and she did for me something that few other coaches can do. If you ask most athletes whether they like training they will tell you that they hate it and it hurts. Jackie taught me to absolutely love my sport and that even if you are training your heart out you can still have fun. She was always able to create an environment that enabled me to feel as good as I could feel.
Phil King must be one of the greatest coaches ever. He only coached two people… Debbie Flintoff-King and myself. One, a World Champion and the other, an Olympic Champion. That’s not a bad C.V. I am not an easy person to coach. I tend to over think things. I can get grumpy and frustrated. He just knew what it would take to turn that around. Phil was always one hundred percent dedicated to my goals. I could rely on him. Every day he came prepared with important messages that he thought would mean something to me. It seems he just knew the ways to get the very best out of me.
Even now, if I have a problem or a question Phil is the first person I will text or call if I need help.
THE ROCKY MOVIES – ALL OF THEM!
Yeah… I know it’s such a cliché. An athlete who loves motivational sports movies! I can’t help it. I just love them. I love the story behind the Rocky character. I love the pump up. I love the adrenaline. I love the message about hard work. It’s all so “old school” but it means something to me and I truly love it.
I wouldn’t consider preparing for a major athletics event without watching a Rocky film as an important part of my prep.
SAFRI DUO – “PLAYED-A-LIVE”
I first heard the Played-A-Live track when my fellow athletes in the 400 m hurdles final at the World Championships in Paris in 2003 and I were entering the stadium. Those mad bongos banged out continuously as we walked onto the track and kept on banging right up until the point when the stadium announcer said “In lane 5, Jan Pittman… from Australia.” Moments later I went on to win my first world championship!
Now I play it to myself before any race… or whenever I am injured and feeling down… or when the voice inside my head is saying “go on… retire… you don’t need this”. This dance track by an obscure Danish percussion duo can instantly transport me back to that time and place when I was the very best in the world. If I need a reminder of what I am capable of and if I need to lift my mood so I can keep working towards where I need to be, Played-A-Live is just the thing to do it for me.
MY KIDS, CORNELIS AND EMILY
Well Cornelis and Emily have pretty much changed fundamentally how I feel about myself, about how I perceived the media saw me and about how I felt about pretty much everything I was doing. All these changes started when Cornelis came along, of course, and now I have Emily as well and she is just so amazing. It can’t get more basic than that. That have influenced me in every way!
Dr. NORMAN BLUMENTHAL
Dr. Norman Blumenthal was the obstetrician that delivered my son Cornelis. From the first day I met him he has had a big impact upon me. Even as a young child I had had an ambition to practice medicine because my Dad had been forced out of medical studies because of a serious accident. It was Dr. Blumenthal who not only encouraged me to think that becoming a doctor was possible but he also influenced me to want to practice obstetrics like him. I just love kids and the thought of helping women to achieve their motherhood goals is something I am working towards.
I know that it is strange that a committed athlete and parent would see getting a medical degree as an important priority but I actually think that working on my medical studies has made me a better athlete. So many young sports people who live a life one hundred percent commitment to their sport live in fear for their future. I love my kids, my sport and my studies and I know that I will have a great future after my competition at the top level has ended.
Dr. Blumenthal has not only been a primary influence in that he has helped steer me towards my professional future while still competing at athletics but he is helping me in an on-going way through being there in the background offering occasional support and friendship when needed. Thinking about Dr. Blumenthal reminds me of the important role that all of my current medical mentors (who have offered much support in recent times) have in my life.
BOOK – “ANOTHER HURDLE” – DAVID HEMERY
Some biographies… even the occasional sport biography… can be boring. They can also be untruthful. Some biographies sum up the lives of their subjects along the lines of “amazing Mr. X… was an amazing athlete, an amazing person, an amazing character who did only amazing things”. David Hemery’s story about his life is quite the opposite. This is an honest book about an ordinary human being who was able to take advantage of a special talent and rise, through enormous hard work, to become extraordinary.
Any athlete… in fact anybody who wants to achieve anything… should read this book. He talks of injuries, nerves, self-doubt and fearing of failure. These are the kinds of honest admissions that make an impact in his biography.
His story and his book have had a huge impact on my own competitive life. I remember after the warm-up for the final at the 2007 world championships I noticed that half of the field in the final were mothers with young children. This gave me a real thrill and I smilingly said so to one of my competitors as we waited to be called out onto the track for the race. The American woman I spoke to not only ignored me… she stared coldly ahead as if I didn’t exist. Nothing. I got nothing from her. Not a smile. Not a wink. Absolutely nothing. I felt gutted. I nearly burst into tears. As the public address called us out onto the track I wondered how I was going to take on the eight best 400 m hurdlers in the world when I was so upset that I couldn’t even concentrate on the first hurdle. Then David and his experiences came back to me. It reminded me that even with all my flaws and frailties I could still be the best in the world. I went on to win the world championship race.