Unlike some sportspeople, Olympian Jane Flemming didn’t struggle with life after her career as an elite athlete ended.
“Even when I was competing, I had always worked or studied and I think that really helped with the transition,” said the 53-year-old former track and field athlete, who went on to set up sponsorship and marketing company Flemming Promotions.
Although she missed competing when she first retired, Flemming said she was glad the injuries and sacrifices she had to make during her sporting career were behind her.
“Competing was always enjoyable, but I didn’t miss the intensity of living that life and having to be so disciplined about what I ate. I don’t put myself in a competitive environment anymore because I don’t like myself; I am very intense,” said the dual Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
A self-confessed sporty child, Horsham-born Flemming dreamt of competing at the Olympics. “I’d always be glued to the TV when it was on,” she recalled.
But it wasn’t until her mid-teens she started to think it might actually happen. “I never would have said it out loud for fear of derision, though,” she laughed.
She finally achieved her dream in 1988 when she competed in the heptathlon and 100m hurdles at the Seoul Olympics.
Four years later, she was part of the Australian Olympic team in Barcelona, but retired injured in her very first event.
“It did take me a while to get over the disappointment,” she admitted. “I always joke that I’ve had my heart broken on a number of occasions: once or twice by men but all the other times by my sporting career.”
These days, Flemming, who lives in Sydney with husband Ian Purchas and their 10-year-old twins, Jimmy and Sammy, has thrown her energy into the community health initiative Live Life Get Active, which she co-founded in 2014. The enterprise offers free health, fitness and nutritional education online and at public sessions across Australia.
Flemming is equally passionate about her work as a director of the Humpty Dumpty Foundation. The charity buys essential equipment for sick and injured children in hospitals and health centres.
Typical Saturday morning
We usually make a cooked breakfast every Saturday: bacon, eggs, mushrooms and guacamole. But I’m not a big breakfast eater, so I’ll usually just have a nibble on some eggs and guacamole and some coffee. Then, like most parents of kids, we have sport on a Saturday morning. I’ve started coaching the boys’ basketball team that my sons play in.
A tuna or salmon Vietnamese roll. I’m a pretty healthy eater.
My roast lamb is pretty good. But my boys love “rolling” pasta, which is called that because when I first started making it, I used pasta that was shaped like a wheel. I put some chopped tomato, toasted pine nuts, fresh basil, olive oil, a bit of chilli, black pepper and parmesan cheese in a bowl and then crush it up with a potato masher. Then I just stir it through the cooked pasta. It was my boys’ first grown-up meal and it’s still one of their favourites.
On my bedside table
A hair band and a Darth Vader torch, which tells me that one of my boys has been in recently. I’ve also got about 10 books. I like reading nonfiction because I love learning new things.
Fantasy place to live
I’ve lived in other places and travelled a lot but there is nowhere else I’d like to live permanently than where I am in Sydney. We live in a harbourside suburb halfway between the city and Bondi Beach. We overlook a playing field on one side and have a reserve on the other, so I feel like we live in the country, even though we are only five minutes from the city.
Whatever is on our Spotify playlists. I have a whole lot of different stuff: everything from Andrea Bocelli to Ed Sheeran, who the boys really love.
Happiness at home
When you are hanging around and have no plans because that’s often when the funny conversations happen. Near where we live is 45ha of bushland, so we also like going for a family bushwalk with our border collie. The boys climb over the creek and up and down the rock face, which they refer to as the “one-way ticket to certain death”.
Secret domestic skill
I know how to use a sewing machine but unfortunately don’t get much time to do it. But I love the fact that when I do, time just seems to float by as I get so engrossed in what I am doing.
My favourite things
This is our border collie, Buddy, who turned five in September. I’ve never had a clever dog before and I realise now how dumb all my other dogs have been. We got Buddy because I needed a dog who could exercise with me when I go for a run because I don’t have a spare half-hour to take him for a walk at a different time. But he takes me for a run these days, let me tell you. He’ll run in front of me and every now and then he’ll look back just to make sure his human “sheep” is still there. The boys love him, too. A friend once told me after we had the boys that we should get a dog because when they become teenagers and don’t want to touch or have anything to do with you, their tactile fulfilment will come from their dog. I can see that already.
This Gillie and Marc sculpture was a Christmas present for my husband because he’s an avid skier. He’s skied since he was five and he jokes that it’s the only thing he can do better than me. I think he skis faster backwards than I do forwards. I didn’t learn to ski until I was 40. I went to Thredbo for nine days and had a two-hour lesson every morning and then would go and practise what I’d learnt on my own in the afternoon. The next year I did something similar and then I met my husband and before I knew it, I was skiing overseas with him. I like to learn how to do things properly but I don’t have to excel at it.
I like to have photos of the boys on display to appreciate and remember moments in their lives, such as their birthdays, because time goes so quickly. We had the twins when I was 43 and my husband was 49. It was the perfect time for us to have a family. Both Ian and I had travelled and lived overseas and been to every party, so there were no itches left to scratch, as it were. We now love it when we are at home or just hanging out with the kids. It’s a joy to have twins. They are quite different and poles apart in terms of interests but they are quite secure, and I often wonder if that is because whenever they look around there is always someone else there.
I didn’t have the best competitive experience at the Barcelona Olympics (in 1992), but once I’d moved on and returned to the stadium, I ended up really enjoying the Games. I wanted to get something that I could keep as a memento of the experience that wasn’t tacky so I bought three of these (mascot statues). I gave two away as gifts but, unfortunately, did the currency exchange incorrectly. When I got back home and got my credit card bill, I realised I’d missed a zero out and they were rather more expensive than I’d thought!
This Georg Jensen ice bucket was a 50th birthday present from my older sister, Kathryn. She sent it up from Melbourne, not knowing that I had been coveting it, which was quite an amazing coincidence. I think it’s beautiful and I put flowers in it so I can use it all the time, although occasionally I’ll pull them out and stick some champagne in. I have two sisters and two brothers and although we don’t call each all the time, if anything major happened in my life, they are the first people I would tell.