Giaan Rooney and the fastest man in the world
Ten years post-swimming career, Giaan Rooney is still looking as fit as ever. Wearing a white dress, she’s well prepared for her whirlwind – and humid – Sydney stay. While Rooney may not have swum a lap since she retired in 2005, she certainly hasn’t had much time to rest. From establishing herself as a well-respected sports commentator, first on Channel Nine and more recently with Channel Seven, to launching her own activewear label for Spalding, to welcoming motherhood with the birth of her beautiful son, Zander. Rooney has certainly kept herself busy.
Digital Editor, Rebecca Chambers, sat down with Rooney to talk about all that’s happened after her time in the pool and her recent trip to Kingston, Jamaica, where she interviewed Usain Bolt ahead of the Rio Olympics.
On meeting the world’s fastest man…
Rooney describes Kingston, Jamaica, as “amazing” after visiting to meet Usain Bolt while he shot for Optus late last year. Meeting the fastest man in the world is a pretty big deal and Rooney didn’t try to hide the fact that she was in absolute awe of him. “He exceeded every expectation I had, in a good way,” she gushed. “What he has, more than height, is just this presence. The way he holds himself, the way he walks, he’s got this thing about him that makes you want to look at him.”
In contrast to the confident performances and post run celebrations that you might associate with Bolt, Rooney tells us that his ego stays on the race track. “What I loved is that he’s so down to earth. In between takes for the Optus commercial he’s just sitting down on a wooden box while everyone’s resetting cameras. Other world famous people would probably say, ‘if you need me, I’ll be in my trailer!’” Rooney says. Bolt didn’t roll with an entourage either, he was on set with his manager and his best mate and as Rooney said, “he’s very chilled.”
“He’s the ultimate athlete. He can turn on that confidence when he’s competing but away from that, he doesn’t feel the need to take himself too seriously,” she says. “I was really interested to know, considering nobody is close to achieving what he has, what gets him up in the morning, what drives him? And his response was, ‘I don’t believe I have run my perfect race yet, I don’t believe I’ve seen the best of myself yet’,” Rooney pauses with wide eyes, “So that’s crazy! To think that he has six gold medals and he thinks we haven’t seen the best of him.”
On life after swimming…
Going from training six to seven days a week to never swimming a lap again sounds like a big change but Rooney says the transition was quite easy. “I’m so fortunate that I love my job,” she says. “The transition was easy because firstly, I found something that gave me the same buzz and something I enjoyed as much as swimming.” She’s talking about being a Channel 7 sports commentator and describes the adrenalin associated with live TV as being just like racing. “Secondly, coming from the monotony of being an elite athlete, I knew exactly what every day looked like, to now, when it’s the complete opposite.” Rooney describes it as “flying by the seat of pants” living and she loves it.
Life after swimming has involved a lot of big opportunities for Rooney and she’s embraced them all. “I’m incredibly grateful for all those opportunities that come along and I’m incredibly grateful to the sport of swimming.”
On her activewear line…
Rooney launched an exclusive line with Spalding in Target back in 2014 and since then has gone onto launch four collections with a fifth on the way. “It all came about with some luck! I was wearing a lot more activewear and Spalding had never done a line for women before,” she explained. “They were in talks with Target and we ended up going ahead with it.”
“I’m proud of the line because it reaches all ages, all sizes, all demographics, all shapes and it doesn’t cost you $90 for a pair of tights. There was a gap in the market between really inexpensive and very expensive,” she says.
Giaan by Spalding offers runners, tops, sports bras, tights and tshirts ranging from $15-$55, meaning there really is something for everyone. “It’s become acceptable to wear activewear even when you’re not being that active, so it needs to transition well. Breathe well. The fabrics, the fit, all of these things are important.”
On becoming a Mum…
Rooney’s son, Zander, will turn two in March, and she says that despite the many books she read during pregnancy, nothing really prepares you for motherhood other than being in it. “Women aren’t multitaskers, we’re maxi-taskers!” Rooney laughs. “It’s very much about finding what works for you and you can’t really know or plan for it. Finding a way and taking on only what you can is important. So I’ve become much better at saying ‘no’”.
On staying fit…
Rooney admits that she hasn’t swum a lap since she retired but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t stayed active and her fit physique is evidence of that. “I haven’t been in a gym in almost 10 years because I get no enjoyment out of it,” she tells me. “I love reformer pilates, I wish I knew about it when I swam. I’m also a big walker. It’s a great way for me to combine my son, my dog, fresh air, the sun and exercise all in one hit.”
Before she headed off to catch a flight back home to her son, Rooney gave a piece of advice that speaks volumes about the kind of person she is, “I’m a big believer that you attract in the universe the things that you put out there. Sometimes you really need to recognise when doors are opening and take a risk and take a plunge.” In the 10 years since she won gold in Athens, there’s no doubt that Rooney has put out a lot of good energy into the universe and she’s taken advantage of every opportunity with gratitude.
Check out Usain Bolt featuring in the brand new Optus series here.