Life from great heights

by AB19 Feb 2018

Australian aerial skiing legend Jacqui Cooper reflects on her job at this year’s Olympics and how to become a champion in business

Over her 20-year career representing Australia in aerial skiing, Jacqui Cooper has broken her back and her leg. She’s had knee, elbow, shoulder and hip reconstructions, but throughout it all she’s never stopped striving to be the best in her sport, even after a crash forced her to put her dreams on hold for 499 days.

Based on your experiences, how would you suggest people deal with adversity, challenge and change?

Resilience is a quality and attribute that’s there on reflection. Twenty years competing in a very brutal and challenging sport conditioned me to be strong. I didn’t start my career very confident or resilient; the obstacles along the way transformed me.

Change is important for the success of any sportsperson or business. If you want longevity and success you have to be willing to change before you have to. People wait until performances decline before realising change is needed, and then it’s too late. Be ready to reinvent, regroup, reenergise, refocus and retrain yourself many times.

How can people who are not professional athletes channel that ‘Olympic mindset’ in their work and life?

I call that ‘Olympic mindset’ my athletic brain. I didn’t turn it on every day, but I could turn it on when I needed it. For individuals not trained by professional sports psychologists, the best way to get the best out of yourself in work and in life is approaching every day, everything and everyone with a champion attitude. A champion attitude always brings champion results!

How have your skills and experiences allowed you to transition from athlete to businesswoman?

I didn’t know it at the time, but everything I was doing in sport was helping me prepare for ‘the outside world’. In aerial skiing I was filling a toolbox with skills that are transferable to business, such as goal-setting, making plans, building a team, managing a budget and my time, working under pressure, processes, outcomes, commitment, leadership and processing feedback.

You persevered and achieved your sport goals and dreams. What do you dream of doing nowadays?

When I was in sport, all I did was one thing – aerials. I committed all day, every day to my sport. Now that I’m retired, I’m able to do more things and tick more personal and professional boxes. I am more fulfilled. I am a mum to three children, a company ambassador for La Trobe Financial, and I started my own gluten-free product range, Food for Me. I own an event company, am a professional speaker, and have just written two books.

What will your role be at this year’s Olympics and what are you most looking forward to about being in that atmosphere again?

I am very excited about the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. I recruited three women into the sport of aerial skiing 10 years ago and all of them have been selected and have a chance to win a medal for Australia. I feel like a very proud mum. Besides being a mentor and part of the cheer squad for the aerial team, I will be co-hosting part of the opening and closing ceremonies and will be an expert commentator for the aerial skiing events.

The atmosphere for the winter games is much bigger overseas than it is here in Australia. The Winter Olympics quickly creeps up on us after the Australian Tennis Open; it lasts for 16 days, and then it’s straight on to the F1 Grand Prix and AFL pre-season games. It is hard to get the southern hemisphere to focus on winter sports during the mid-summer. In saying all of that, when the games are on, Australia will have their eyes on our Australian athletes day and night!