Champion athletes inspire Women in Business

Caroline Hutchinson

Hills resident and former Olympian, Jana Pittman, took to the stage on Thursday 24 November, to inspire guests with anecdotes of her glory on and off the track at the final Coleman Greig Women in Business event for the year, the Lunch of Champions.

Olympic diver Melissa Wu, Paralympic swimmer Ellie Cole, and Olympic snowboarder Holly Crawford joined Jana to share their stories of courage and determination in a panel style interview.

A two times World Champion and four times Commonwealth Champion, in the sport of athletics – hurdles and relay, Jana kept the audience entertained with her motivations for becoming a professional athlete, and of course, her famous race with idol Cathy Freeman where she became the first person to beat her in seven years.

Having tackled the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Olympic Games, Jana also discussed her pursuit for Gold and challenges overcoming injury as being behind her decision to swap the track for ice to join the Australian Women’s bobsleigh team for the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.   

Not content to rest on her athletic laurels, Jana, described by one guest as “Wonder Woman”, is now studying a Bachelor of Medicine & Surgery at Western Sydney University – a pursuit inspired by her father. A mum of two with a third on the way, Jana spoke candidly about her motivation to “go it alone”, pursuing IVF to achieve her dreams of having a family.

During the panel session Melissa Wu talked about the importance of family and how hers drive her to succeed in diving. The close-knit unit have supported the three-time Olympian from the age of 10 when she began diving with Parramatta Diving Club and have remained a pillar of strength throughout her rigorous training schedule, injuries and the tragic death of her younger sister.

The topic which resonated most with the room, and which each of the speakers touched on, was the need to overcome self-doubt. Jana said it perfectly while describing her first race against Cathy – the one she missed because she was too scared to leave the toilet cubicle she’d hidden in: “We all have choices. Don’t let your fear slow you down. Failing because you don’t try is worse than failing if you have tried.”

Holly urged the room to look to themselves, “You have to be able to be your own inspiration. We’re all capable of great things but you can’t find that drive from other people.”

Currently training in Castle Hill, Ellie has fought cancer, shoulder reconstructions and self-doubt to achieve 15 medals from three consecutive Paralympics campaigns – including six from Rio. Inspired by the gratitude of being alive, Ellie’s tip to wear waterproof mascara if you win the Olympics was a hit with the crowd!

The Women in Business Lunch of Champions supported the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation, a cause close to ambassador Jana’s heart following her own health scare which has led to her goal of becoming a surgeon specialising in gynaecological cancer. Thanks to the support of guests and fantastic prize donations by PARKROYAL Parramatta, Riverside Theatres, St.George Bank, Hair by PHD and Girls Getaway, $4,600 was raised to support the Foundation’s work.

Coleman Greig Women in Business has grown to become the largest women’s networking forum in Western Sydney and will celebrate 10 years in 2017 – join now and celebrate the birthday festivities in style with discounted tickets to events, priority invitations, a MiNDFOOD subscription and more!

For more information visit our Women in Business page.