This week every­body’s talk­ing about... COM­MON­WEALTH GAMES

The Games will be in her own back­yard, but the for­mer Olympian is happy to be a part of it from dryer ground, writes Anna Brain

Herald Sun - Hit - - COVER STORY - GIAAN ROONEY

IT’S been 12 years since she last com­peted in the 2006 Com­mon­wealth Games. Now a re­spected com­men­ta­tor, for­mer Olympian Giaan Rooney says she doesn’t miss the pool, or the gru­elling pace of train­ing as an elite ath­lete.

“I’ve not swum a lap since,” she says. “I don’t even own a pair of togs that would al­low me to do laps any more.

“But I ac­tu­ally feel that’s very healthy. I’m very grate­ful for my time, I owe swim­ming so much and it’s a huge part of me. But I don’t miss it.

“I feel more like a proud mum watch­ing the ath­letes race, and I want it so badly for them. I know how much work has gone into what they do, but I have no de­sire to stand up there on the block and re­place them.”

While many of her con­tem­po­raries have strug­gled with life af­ter swim­ming, Rooney, now a mother of two, has built up an en­vi­able ca­reer with Chan­nel 7, with en­dorse­ments and am­bas­sado­rial roles on the side.

“I am one of the few that has been able to have a sec­ond chance at a great ca­reer in life af­ter sport, and I don’t take that for granted. It can be taken away eas­ily.

“There are many who have tried, and for what­ever rea­son it hasn’t worked. I’m grate­ful ev­ery day for the life I’m liv­ing.”

From to­day, Rooney will be part of Chan­nel 7’s ded­i­cated Com­mon­wealth Games com­men­tary team, which in­cludes Hamish McLach­lan, Mel McLaugh­lin, Jo­hanna Griggs, Jim Wil­son and Todd Wood­bridge to name but a few.

For the first six days she will fo­cus on the mag­nif­i­cent pools at South­port’s Broad­wa­ter.

“For all the ath­letes, the big­gest is­sue is that there’s no roof on the pool, and they’re used to hav­ing a roof on com­pe­ti­tion venues. But at the end of the day, ev­ery­one is deal­ing with the same con­di­tions. So, if it’s rain­ing, they’re all go­ing to be deal­ing with the rain. If it’s glar­ing sun, they’re all deal­ing with glar­ing sun. It’s got such an Aussie feel to it. You cer­tainly couldn’t have done that in Glas­gow four years ago, or in Delhi be­fore that. So I think it’s a good vibe.”

Rooney is re­luc­tant to name her top picks in the pool, say­ing she doesn’t like to put ad­di­tional pres­sure on them. But she says view­ers should keep an eye on one swim­mer in par­tic­u­lar.

“For me, I think it’s safe to call her ‘come­back queen’, Cate Camp­bell. She took a year off last year just to re­assess and find her love of the sport. She’s ab­so­lutely fly­ing at tri­als a few weeks ago, there’s a new level of con­fi­dence in her. For me, she wins and wins eas­ily.

“Def­i­nitely the 100m freestyle, maybe even a but­ter­fly event as well, she’s that good.

“I had a lit­tle bit of a look, and on pa­per, for the top times swum in the world this year, Aus­tralians are ranked No. 1 in the Com­mon­wealth na­tions in 21 events, which is huge. So ob­vi­ously they all need to step up and deal with that pres­sure and ex­pec­ta­tion and per­form on the day. The para ath­letes are also in­cred­i­bly strong.

“We love the fact that the Com­mon­wealth Games is the only ma­jor in­ter­na­tional event where our para ath­letes are in­volved with the able-bod­ied ath­letes, all in the same pro­gram to­gether. Swim­ming is tra­di­tion­ally very strong at Com­mon­wealth Games level, and I don’t think this year is go­ing to be any dif­fer­ent.

“I’d like to hear the na­tional an­them sung at least five times.”

Ev­ery­one be­comes a sports junkie dur­ing the Games, and Rooney is no ex­cep­tion. When the swim­ming is over, she’ll turn her tal­ents to an­other, more un­ex­pected sport.

“In the sec­ond six days I’m ac­tu­ally go­ing to be do­ing a bit of work at the rhyth­mic gym­nas­tics, and I haven’t ever been to a live gym­nas­tics com­pe­ti­tion be­fore,” she says.

“When they fin­ish com­pet­ing they come past and do a lit­tle in­ter­view. I don’t claim to be an ex­pert, and I think peo­ple would laugh at me try­ing to be. But I’ll cer­tainly try to cram in as much re­search as I pos­si­bly can.” And if her sched­ule al­lows, she wants to check out some un­usual venues be­ing used for the Games. “The squash fa­cil­i­ties are in the big movie stu­dios up here. The sound stages are be­ing con­verted into squash courts, with big glass boxes. So I’m hop­ing my sched­ule al­lows me to get to as many dif­fer­ent events as pos­si­ble.” Af­ter grow­ing up on the Gold Coast, Rooney moved to Mel­bourne for 13 years. She and husband Sam Levett moved back to the Gold Coast to be near her par­ents, who help out with son Zan­der, three, and Alexa, nine months. From a lo­cal per­spec­tive, she has watched prepa­ra­tions for the Games with in­ter­est. “The Gold Coast needed to grow up,” she says. “But it has done it so well I re­ally do feel that we’re a world-class city and I can’t wait to show it off.

“So many of our roads have been up­graded, pub­lic trans­port, changes that will ben­e­fit the city in the long run. “On the Gold Coast we’re pretty lucky that we haven’t had that traf­fic of a Syd­ney or Mel­bourne be­fore, and peo­ple are wor­ried about that, be­cause they like their nor­mal pace.

“But for 11 days, I think we’re go­ing to be OK. I re­mem­ber be­fore the Syd­ney Olympics the same thing hap­pened, and be­fore the Mel­bourne Com­mon­wealth Games. Peo­ple were like, ‘we’ve got to get out, it’s go­ing to be hor­ren­dous’. And they’re the ones who felt like they missed out when ev­ery­one raved about it.”

CHAN­NEL 7 COM­MEN­TA­TOR GIAAN ROONEY CAN’T WAIT FOR THE GAMES TO BE­GIN. WATCH THE COM­MON­WEALTH GAMES on Chan­nel 7, 7TWO and 7mate from to­day

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