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Sporting Schools School Yard to Sports Star: Nia Jerwood

Nia Jerwood (right)

Nia Jerwood is one of Australia’s fast-improving young sailors. Nia (picture above right) and crewmate Monique de Vries (left) are ranked No.14 in the world in the 470 Women’s Class and won a silver medal at the Junior 470 World Championships in Japan earlier this year. Nia recently was recently awarded a Sport Australia Hall of Fame Mentoring Program scholarship through which she will work closely over the next year with dual Olympic hockey gold medallist Liane Tooth OAM.


What are your memories of playing sport at school? What sports did you play?

I have always loved being in or on the water so naturally I participated in swimming carnivals and swimming training. In high school outdoor education we used to play under water hockey, which I loved. I did enjoy playing T-ball in primary school and badminton in high school. I was never a sprinter, but did all right in longer distance running and endurance sports.


How did you get into sailing?

My parents got me into sailing when I was quite young. I was always hanging around sailing clubs on the weekend, mostly playing on the shore whilst my older siblings completed their learn to sail course. I was super excited when I finally was old enough to start. My Grandad painted my first boat to look like Nemo and at the age of five I was completely hooked.


What is your memory of your first sailing victory?

My first sailing win was when I won the Bantam of the Canning at Shelley Sailing Club in 2006. However, I recognise my first victory a few years before that in same race, the year I came second. I would have been six or seven years old and my big brother, who is five years older, was racing as well. He was really good so I decided to follow him at the start. When he got tangled on the start buoy I passed him in pole position off the start. I just managed to hold him off on the finish line and beat my big brother for the first time.


When did you decide you wanted to sail competitively and put all your energy into it?

In 2008 I was in year five and watched Elise Rechichi and Tessa Parkinson win gold in Beijing in the 470 Women’s Class.  I had always wanted to go to the Olympics but I think it was their success that solidified the direction I wanted to take. Last year I transitioned from the 420 Youth class into the 470 Olympic Class. Competing in the adult class now definitely requires you to put all your energy into training, racing and becoming a better athlete.


What are your upcoming goals in sailing?

My goal next year is to qualify for the Australian Sailing Team at the 470 World Championships. I am currently campaigning with my teammate Monique de Vries for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. It has always been my goal to win a medal at the Olympics representing Australia.  

What are your top three tips for children playing sport?

  1. Explore different sports until you find something you love. Enjoy your sport, it is a great way of making long lasting friends and an outlet for getting your head outside of the classroom.
  2. Dream big and don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. If your goal doesn’t scare you a little, it isn’t big enough.
  3. Learn from your failures - don’t get upset and give up when you lose. Go congratulate the winners, then go back work harder and use what you learnt to beat them next time.