Life for the NSW teenager and para-swimmer is a cycle of eat, swim, study and sleep as she prepares for the Manchester 2023 championships.
On a regular Wednesday, while you and I snooze our morning away, Jasmine Greenwood has already done her first swim session of the day and prepped for a long day at university before she heads back to the pool for session No. 2, having squeezedin a gym or pilates workout along the way.
She may see herself as a regular 18-year-old, who loves to surf, eat garlic bread and read crime novels in her free time, but most of us don’t have an Olympic medal. So, I wondered “What makes Jasmine tick?”.
“I grew up in Sussex Inlet, which is a small town in NSW, on the [South] Coast. So, my early childhood was very normal. I went to the local primary school, and I was sort of just, you know, amongst everybody else,” she recalled.
The young Jasmine had a thirst for sports, all sports, but from a very young age swimming struck a chord. She dreamed of going to the Olympics but life had different plans for her. One Friday afternoon in 2011, Greenwood can still clearly recall being rushed to Sydney Children’s Hospital suffering multiple strokes, which resulted in a brain injury that permanently affected her physical movement.
'We deserve the same as able-bodied athletes because we're doing the same training, producing the same results and swimming for the same country.'
Swimming was firstly, a big part of the six-year-old’s rehabilitation and then it became something more. “It kind of opened a new opportunity and a new perspective to take, which was the Paralympics. So, that became my new goal,” Greenwood said.
Like you and I, Greenwood still has days when getting out of bed can feel like conquering Mount Everest. “A lot of my motivation comes from wanting to achieve the goals that I've set out. I know that if I want to do that, I need to train hard, which means I have to get out of bed. I've got short-term goals for longer-term goals and going into training every morning is part of that.”
While motivation is one factor, there is a less scrutinised parallel of elite sport: the long periods of time between major events that athletes must endure, “especially in my sport, where the pinnacle event is the Olympics or Paralympics, which only occurs every four years. Four years is a long time.”
While patience is key, she said, the pressure builds as time runs its course. “You want everything you've done in the past to be worth it; so, the whole lead-up is very daunting.”
For Greenwood, those efforts seem to have paid off. She boasts a bronze medal from the 2019 London World Para Swimming Championships, a silver from the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and gold from the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Next week, she will return to the world stage for the Para Swimming World Championships in Manchester, UK, where she will compete in the 200 Individual Medley (SM10); 100m freestyle (S10); 100m butterfly (S10); and 50m freestyle (S10).
Quite the journey for a young girl from Sussex Inlet, a coastal hamlet which boast only a 25 m pool. “There are no traffic lights, I live on a dirt road. So, in that town, nobody was expecting anyone to go to the Paralympics,” she said.
Today, Greenwood finds herself competing in Olympic-sized pools on the other side of the globe. “My parents have never been overseas. So, I'm very fortunate to have had all these experiences and it's kind of like a reward after all the hard work, you've, you know, made the team. And it's happening, you're actually going to the competition.”
She misses home and family but sees living away from home as the price she must pay to achieve success, acknowledging she can only do it with the support of her coaches, teammates, medical staff and family. “I'm hoping it's all going to pay off one day.”
In the meantime, she strives for balance as an athlete and an 18-year-old. “I definitely do normal things, I go out, I go travelling and on holidays, I listen to music and go to parties, but obviously in moderation.”
Greenwood has swum competitively since she was 12 and is aware of the additional challenges women face in some sports. “It's been evident in the past that there's been a bit of inequality. But I think we're moving in the right direction,” she said. “In my sport, I can't point out anything, particularly that is unequal, which is a really good thing. But that's not to say that it's not occurring in other sports. So, I think it just needs to continue to be recognised and [that] takes attention and cooperation from both men and women.”
On the question of equal access for para-athletes, Greenwood “unfortunately” still sees an uneven playing field “particularly in terms of funding and sponsorship opportunities”.
“We deserve the same as able-bodied athletes because we're doing the same training, producing the same results and swimming for the same country,” she argued.
Of Greenwood’s many achievements so far, her silver medal in Tokyo was especially meaningful, as it came in the aftermath of the South Coast’s devastating Black Summer bushfires, where Sussex Inlet, population 3000, was cut off by the fires and her family’s eight-hectare farm was severely impacted.
“It was kind of like when you see in a movie, something's blown up, there are little fires everywhere and the sky is black. There was no electricity for about two weeks, the weather was 47 degrees and they closed the road off,” she said. “So, we couldn't get food or anything. We were kind of just stuck waiting for it to be over.”
Only eight months out from the Paralympics, Greenwood was swallowing the harsh reality of what was to become of her dreams. “I also had that in the back of my mind, like how am I going to train if everything's on fire?”
“The whole town chipped in and got involved. I had a lot of support, I feel proud to be representing that community”. In the end, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics were pushed back a year by the pandemic giving her additional time to regroup and train.
Named Sport NSW’s 2022 Young Athlete of the Year with a Disability, Greenwood acknowledges her responsibility towards society and specifically, people living with disabilities as something she takes quite seriously.
“It's not just about being an athlete, it's about being a good person as well. I want to … try to encourage others to do similar things if they want to.
“With success comes a little bit of self-glory. So, I think it's important to stay true to who you are, and what you want to represent, be genuine and be real. So, people can actually be inspired by you.”