Study a silver lining for Paralympic swimmers

The benefit of a postponed Tokyo Paralympics for Jesse Aungles is that the Commonwealth Games gold medallist expects to be far more advanced in speaking Japanese by mid-2021.

“I’ve been learning Japanese for the past two years,” says Aungles, who is studying International Relations at the University of Canberra.

“I’ve been so lucky to be able to represent Australia as a swimmer and I’d love to continue representing Australia in a different role when my sporting career is over, that’s why I chose International Relations. I feel like a lot of the skills we learn as athletes can be transferrable to life outside sport too.”

Aungles, along with AIS teammate and room-mate Matt Levy, are among 40 athletes from 19 sports who benefitted from the inaugural AIS Athlete Education Scholarships this year. The initiative is designed to ease the financial burden on athletes who are undergoing education to prepare for life beyond sport.

Levy, a four-time Paralympian, completed his Masters of Business Administration (Innovation and Leadership) in 2020, published his autobiography ‘Head Above Water’ and has continued his career as a change analyst for Westpac, guiding staff through the challenges of COVID-19.

Born 15 weeks premature and having gone through more than 50 operations in his lifetime, Levy says a positive mindset is the key to progress in any field.

“For me, I guess, [the postponement of the 2020 Paralympics] was a bit of a silver lining,” Levy says. “I was able to finish my MBA, and so for me it was an easy goal to readjust to.

“I’ve been lucky enough to hold down a job for about 11, plus my swimming career. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I didn’t have the mindset of trying to showcase what I am capable of … you can do anything you put your mind to.”

Aungles, aiming for his second Paralympics, said committing to education had helped improve his approach to swimming.

“There’s no understating that there’s been a lot of challenges in 2020, but I think those challenges bring a huge opportunity to grow. You don’t grow in a box,” says Aungles.

“I found it hard to adjust when I first moved to the AIS to focus only on training, but studying has helped me find a better balance with my swimming.”

Levy, 33, encourages younger athletes to find something outside of sport that they’re passionate about.

“It’s about trying new things and something you really enjoy. It doesn’t need to be University or TAFE, just something you can learn from,” Levy says. “It’s great to have that balance, not just that singular focus on sport. It’s been able to help improve me as an athlete and a corporate worker.”

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