Former Olympic 400m runner Sean Wroe, who runs a brokerage in Byron Bay, had the chance to attend the Tokyo Olympics and assist members of the Australian team.
Sean Wroe knows what it takes to reach the pinnacle of sport – the Olympic Games.
The Byron Bay finance broker, who set up his own brokerage, Sakura Finance, four years ago, competed at the top level for 10 years as a 400m runner. The 36-year-old won gold in the 4 x 400m relay and silver in the 400m at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Wroe competed in both events at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, placing 21st in the 400m and fifth in the relay. He was also part of the 4 x 400m team that won gold at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
So it was an honour for Wroe to make a different contribution to the world of sport in 2021 by accompanying the Australian Olympic team to Tokyo as a volunteer with the Olympian services team.
He even found some downtime to settle a loan for a client and lodge three loans, despite working at least 17-hour days helping the Australian Olympians.
Australian Broker caught up with Wroe at the end of August after he had returned to Australia from Tokyo and completed quarantine.
Wroe said when he competed at the Beijing Olympics he didn’t realise just how much went on behind the scenes.
“As an athlete you’re oblivious because you’re focused on one job – to perform at the highest level in your chosen sport. Sitting on this side of the fence and going into the Tokyo Olympics, I didn’t realise how many staff are there to support you in achieving your goals.”
Wroe said he and the other staff in Tokyo were there “to do everything and anything”.
“There’s no job we couldn’t do – it was just a matter of getting the job done. No day was the same.”
As well as welcoming Aussie athletes to the Olympic Village and explaining how things worked, uniform swaps were a big part of Wroe’s role, assisted by former Hockeyroo David Guest, former 110m hurdler Kyle Vander-Kuyp and Australian Davis Cup manager Kathryn Oyeniyi. “We would have to get those uniforms, store them and make sure they went out to the respective athletes,” he said.
Wroe spent a lot of time assisting the Australian Boomers basketball team. His mother is Japanese and he can speak Japanese – on one occasion he was called on to translate for the Boomers team doctor who was assisting a player in hospital.
Among the perks was being a spectator at some incredible events – the Opals match against the US, Aussie runner Peter Bol’s 800m final, Australian boxer Harry Garside’s bronze medal match, and the men’s high jump and 100m finals.
“We would have tambourines and drums, because there were no crowds. My role changed to being part of the cheer squad, clapping and smashing the drums and supporting the team.”
Wroe also got to hang out with C1 canoe slalom gold medallist Jessica Fox and gold medal-winning swimmer Cate Campbell.
Being in Japan didn’t stop him from helping his brokerage clients.
“I had my phone with me 24/7, and emails were coming through on that so I could monitor them. I could pretty much broker with a mobile phone, which was awesome.”
When it was announced the Olympics would be held in Tokyo, Wroe said he knew he wanted to be involved somehow. He said when he retired from sport in 2014 and was living in Melbourne, he did a lot of work for the Victorian Olympic Committee and the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC), fostering some strong relationships.
Wroe went to Japan in May 2019 with the AOC to promote the Australian Olympics team. Being fluent in Japanese and with a good understanding of the culture, he was invited by the AOC to be one of the Olympics volunteers in Tokyo.
Reflecting on his races at the Commonwealth and Olympic Games, Wroe said he loved competing.
“There’s some athletes that are very good trainers, and they clam up and get a bit nervous at the competition and don’t perform as well as they could, and there’s some athletes that love competing and will just produce something out of nothing – that’s probably where I fell.
“I loved being on the big stage.”
Wroe said it was good being back in a high-performance space in Tokyo. “It’s probably something that I’ve missed a lot. Since I retired from sport I hadn’t gone to a high-performance athletics competition.”
He said the Australian athletes in Tokyo were one of the most close-knit teams he had seen, with COVID restrictions confining them to the village.
“It shows, too – the performances we had as a collective were just amazing; seeing fresh, new faces
in sport was amazing, such as the skateboarders.”