Spotlight on…….Jade Sweeney – local young diver achieving new heights
Local young diver Jade Sweeney, currently 15 years old and in year 10, has just returned from placing 2nd in the preliminary round, and 6th worldwide in the final, in the Dresden International youth diving meet in Germany – the largest international competition for junior athletes after the Junior World Championships.
Jade, has been diving for just 5 years, and was one of only 2 young athletes in her age group (14 – 15 year girls, Junior B) selected to travel to Germany with the Junior Diving Team and coaches to represent Australia – a huge achievement in itself. In Dresden, the competition was fierce, with only 3 dives, and no margin for error at this elite end of the sport. Jades age group teammate, Ashleigh Meneses from Melbourne, also made the final and ranked 12th in the world.
Jade is no stranger to international competition. Last year Jade competed at the Junior World Diving Championships in Kazan, Russia, and was ranked 20th worldwide on platform. She has also travelled to Amsterdam, a previous trip to Germany, and to Singapore to represent NSW back in 2012. Jade says “I learnt a lot from previous trips and felt more confident this time”. Jade currently trains ten times a week at both NSWIS and SOPAC, for a total of 24 hours per week. Even in Dresden, the team trains twice a day ahead of the competition, and on days they are not competing. They get just a few hours to do any sightseeing, if at all, but Jade isn’t complaining. When this motivated and focused young athlete is asked what she enjoys about the sport she replies “I can’t explain it, but I just love it”.
The Sweeney family has had a long association with Eva Bory’s Swim School and Nepean Aquatic Centre. Father James Sweeney coached swimming at both centres for nearly a decade, and is now Multisport Coach at neighbouring Atmosphere Health and Fitness, and is Nepean Aquatic Centre swim squad’s strength coach at AHF. Jade and brother Jack (now 17), learnt to swim with us from squids to sharks, and in Kids Swim 4 Fitness.
Speaking with Jade’s parents, James and Tracy Sweeney, it is little wonder Jade has ended up in a sport where she dives off a 10 meter high platform and enters the water at up to 50km per hour. Jade says she prefers platform diving to springboard diving because she “likes going off the higher boards”. James says, “Jade has always been fearless. Twice as a young child she dived into the backyard pool – and I fished her out with the net used for scooping out leaves. The third time, her brother fished her out. Swimming lessons followed soon after. Lots of children don’t like putting their face in the water – Jades swimming instructor had to teach her to get her face out of the water!” Mum Tracy adds, “Jade has always been a water baby, it is unsurprising she has ended up a diver”. After learning to swim, Jade went on to represent York Public School at both zone and regional carnivals, and was consistently the primary schools swimming champion.
Asking if they have any fear about the sport of diving, the Sweeney’s have great faith in both Jades ability and the coaches credentials. James says, “Jade has good trust and rapport with her coaches, and they have all been at the highest level of the sport themselves”. Jade adds, “They wait until I am 100% ready before I attempt a dive”.
When asked how all of the training impacts on her school studies and social life, Jade says, “I cope – I don’t do sport at school, do homework on the weekends, and my personal excellence advisor at NWSIS helps with tutoring and support if I am falling behind. Plus I have the support of good friends and family”. Dad James adds, “Jade has her priorities clear in her head and makes her own decisions about how to structure her time”. Mum Tracy said, “We are obviously extremely proud of Jade and we are happy for her to continue as long as she is enjoying the sport. I admire the dedication shown, and it’s amazing that she is able to juggle study and sport and do well in both, whilst making her own choices at such a young age”.
A further benefit is the friendships that Jade is making, both within the Australian team who all support each other, and with other athletes around the globe, and they are able to keep in contact via social media. In the age of technology it is also becoming easier to watch competitions overseas – the Sweeney’s were able to watch a live stream from Dresden this time – which is important, as parents do not travel with the junior team. Tracey explained, “Sport is self funded at the Junior level, which means that not all talented young athletes might have the means to travel and take advantage of opportunities that come their way”.
Nepean Aquatic Centre and Eva Bory’s Swim School were proud to provide some sponsorship for Jade to travel to Germany, and wish her every success in the future – we will be following your career closely. Jade hopes for the future are to compete at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Next up however is the Open Nationals in Sydney at the end of May, Jades first appearance at this event.