GREATER THAN GOLD: FIONA DE JONG

GREATER THAN GOLD: FIONA DE JONG

AS A young girl riding BMX bikes, Fiona de Jong never dreamed she would be where she is today, CEO of the Australian Olympic Committee and the first female to hold this title.

Following a strict regime of 'six hours learning, six hours studying, six hours training and six hours sleeping' as she studied to become a lawyer, the Brisbane-raised de Jong is proof that diligence delivers results.

De Jong graduated with Honours from Bond University in the mid-1990s with a Law degree and hopes of representing Australia's triathlon team in sight.

She first arrived at University to pursue her passion for a unique kind of law at the time, information technology, a progressive choice considering the internet was still in its infancy.

De Jong says studying afforded her an opportunity to focus equally on her vastly different passions of law and sport through an understanding that this would provide the most solid foundations for a life of leadership.

As the head of Australia's Olympics campaign, de Jong is now focused on passing her baton of wisdom to young people today. She hopes to be a role model for young athletes by demonstrating there are strong career opportunities after sport.

"One of the challenges we have in Australia with our athletes is they may not believe they can have a duality of careers," says de Jong.

"Having walked that path, I know that it is tough, but more athletes need to know you can do both, and keeping a healthy body means you have a healthy mind.

"I would strategically choose my subjects when I was studying around triathlon, so in winter when there were no races I would do the harder subjects and in summer do the easier ones. However, I quickly realised that when I was in heavy training, I actually studied better."

De Jong functions better when her life is a balancing act. Alessandro, her infant son, is the latest addition to this act, with de Jong citing his existence as 'unequivocally the most extraordinary accomplishment I have achieved' and not at all stopping her in her tracks.

"Much was said at the time I was appointed to my role in 2014 about being the first female in our 120-year history," she says.

"There is nothing special about me. I am the product of a generation that has had every opportunity my brother did. I simply walked through the doors of opportunity when they have opened.

"I haven't experienced being a woman as particularly significant or insignificant in my career, which in itself I think is an accomplishment for women."

In true athlete form, de Jong believes time management is the basis for success, and 'there is no better place than school or university' to learn such a skill.

"If I could envision a roadmap by which young future leaders could have a rich and rewarding career, it would be one that marries a very good education with a few really wise choices in life," she says.

"Blessed with so many opportunities in a country like ours, it's a question of which ones you really want to take. There are no shortcuts in achieving - it takes true discipline and hard work.

"I'm also a big believer in pursuing what you love and not letting anyone contain your dream. If at first you don't find your passion, don't settle or let people pigeon-hole you. Continue to discover until you find that really unique combination that sets you apart."
 

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