Olympic Gold Medalist, Jo Aleh, is on a mission to provide inspiration to young kiwis wanting to pursue their dreams. Jo, along with her teammate Polly Powrie make up Team Jolly. Together they have shared remarkable success in the 470 Olympic Class throughout their long partnership. Jo is a tenacious athlete, dedicated and simply loves the physical and mental challenges of sport. We wish Jo well as she is set to triumph in Rio…
When did you first want to go to the Olympics?
At my 12th birthday I said I was going to go to the Olympics. I was pretty sure from an early age. I didn’t really know how and if it was going to happen but I was going to make it happen.
What does it mean to you to be an Olympian?
I guess it for me its actually being a bit of a process. Once I started getting into the sailing and really getting in to it, it wasn’t so much about going to the Olympics but more about being the best that I could be. The Olympics is the place that you test that coming up against everyone else. For me it’s a personal challenge. There is still an aspect of representing the country and that’s nice. I’s a bonus but its not really why I do it. I go to better myself and the fact that I can take the country with me is quite cool.
How do you feel as a role model for young kiwi girls as a female athlete?
I wish there was a lot more coverage of women’s sport and showing us as role models for the girls coming through. I know when I was young that’s what inspired me. It was Barbara Kendall and Lesley Egnot. Lesley gave a talk at one of my first sailing regattas I just remember being like ‘oh my gosh wow’. Lesley is quite a small person. She had a silver medal and had raced in the Americas cup. It just became do-able from just another kiwi who was my size. So I wish there was more of showing what we do and how we do it. There is some amazing female athletes in NZ and we don’t get showcased enough.
Describe one of your hardest training sessions in the last 6 months
I do a bit of a mix of training. For me its running, stand up paddle boarding and obviously sailing. I do yoga and pilates but they’re not so hard but I do them for balance. The hardest thing I did last year was a 220km stand up paddle board race over 5 days. Just for fun. That was quite epic and I didn’t really do any training for it. I guess I like to push myself or see how far I can push myself.
When you walk out to compete in Rio what will be the last thing you tell yourself?
For Rio the important thing for me is to actually enjoy it. To have fun out there sailing because the opportunity to sail at that level in an amazing place like Rio is rare. I want to enjoy it and I need to enjoy it. At the end of the day the result is what it is but if I enjoy the process and carry out the process that’s all that I want.
What will you have for breakfast on competition day in Rio?
The fruit in Rio is so good so I’ll probably have a bit of pawpaw, kiwifruit yoghurt and some nuts. I’ll keep it simple.
Aside from life as an elite athlete what else makes you get out of bed in the morning?
I love being outside. I love waking up going for a run on a beautiful morning. Go for a paddle, go for a kite and just get out on the water is what I enjoy. The fact that I can do all of those training as cross training is a bit of a bonus.
What’s your ideal rest day?
There’s two kinds of rest days for me – there’s the I’m so tired I actually need a rest day. I do very little which is quite difficult. I try to relax, maybe go for a little walk. Read a book. Actually take some time out. The other is the active relaxed day, which I quite enjoy. Where I go for a paddle, go surfing or a kite surf. Obviously you’ve got to balance it out with actual rest.
If you weren’t dominating the sporting world what would you be doing?
I think I would be doing some other sport probably on the water. I just love sport so much.
Finally, If you had the chance to acknowledge someone who has helped you get to this point in your sporting career who would it be and why?
It’s hard to figure out just one person as there has been so many people. I’ve been doing this for so long. It’s been 12 years at this level. You get a list of people that have helped you out that is so long. I guess the last 8 years, David Slyfield has been hugely instrumental in pushing Polly and I forward. I owe him a lot and he’s just an amazing guy.
Photo credit: Jo Aleh