Jaime Fernandez says it still hurts watching the rowing final of the men’s eight at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
Jaime was stroke of the men’s eight, which was beaten to gold on the line by Great Britain in a heartbreaking finish to the blue riband event.
It wasn’t until he was asked to do a presentation in his role as a teacher at Canberra Grammar that he summoned up the desire to watch it again.
“I’ve had to watch it a few times now with presentations,” says Jaime. “It still hurts. It never leaves you.”
The race also heralded the end of his career as an athlete, which included three Olympics and five World Championships.
Three years before the Sydney Olympics, he was a member of the famous ACT crew, which won the 1997 Kings Cup. This was the ACT’s first and only victory in the 102-year history of the great race.
But by the end of that race at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, his competitive rowing days were over.
The transition to the general workforce was made easier with a Bachelor of Education degree achieved while he was still competing.
“UC was incredibly flexible, accommodating and supportive while I was doing my degree, which I did while being overseas for three months every year.”
He has now been recognised as one of the distinguished alums of UC with inclusion on the University’s Walk of Fame alongside Phil Brown, Kate Roffey and Matt Levy.
Says Jaime, “It’s an enormous honour, and it makes you realise the connection to sport and the University. It’s really humbling”.
During the final two years of his rowing career, he was already in the workforce as a school teacher.
He spent eight years at Canberra Grammar as a teacher, housemaster and director of rowing.
Until his recent appointment as Rugby Australia’s National Women’s High Performance Manager, he was omnipresent in rowing, including seven years as Rowing Australia’s Deputy High Performance Director.
Being a former athlete has greatly benefited his coaching and high-performance roles.
“I think it does give you perspective and a level of understanding. The insights you have as an athlete don’t leave you, but obviously, the times are different,” says Jaime.
A few months into his latest challenge with Rugby Australia, that skillset is used to get the best out of current and future Wallaroos.
He retains a positive mindset about each individual’s performance: “I’ve always thought there’s talent, and it’s important to engage with the athletes.”
A keen observer of women’s rugby (his daughter Ash is a lock in the Brumbies women’s program), he is well aware of the environment in which he works.
But it’s an environment with challenges.
Jaime’s background means that he understands the demands of working towards a goal and recognises the cohesiveness required within a team. This provides the perfect framework to address the challenges that arise within any sports environment, including that of the Wallaroos.