Australian aerial skiing legend Jacqui Cooper reflects on her job at this year’s Olympics
and how to become a champion in business

Over her 20-year career representing Australia in aerial skiing, Jacqui Cooper has
broken her back and her leg. She’s had knee, elbow, shoulder and hip reconstructions,
but throughout it all she’s never stopped striving to be the best in her sport, even after a
crash forced her to put her dreams on hold for 499 days.

Based on your experiences, how would you suggest people deal with adversity,
challenge and change?

Resilience is a quality and attribute that’s there on reflection. Twenty years
competing in a very brutal and challenging sport conditioned me to be strong. I
didn’t start my career very confident or resilient; the obstacles along the way
transformed me.

Change is important for the success of any sportsperson or business. If you want
longevity and success you have to be willing to change before you have to.
People wait until performances decline before realising change is needed, and
then it’s too late. Be ready to reinvent, regroup, reenergise, refocus and retrain
yourself many times.

How can people who are not professional athletes channel that ‘Olympic mindset’
in their work and life?

I call that ‘Olympic mindset’ my athletic brain. I didn’t turn it on every day, but I
could turn it on when I needed it. For individuals not trained by professional
sports psychologists, the best way to get the best out of yourself in work and in
life is approaching every day, everything and everyone with a champion attitude.
A champion attitude always brings champion results!

What will your role be at this year’s Olympics and what are you most looking
forward to about being in that atmosphere again?

I am very excited about the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. I recruited
three women into the sport of aerial skiing 10 years ago and all of them have been
selected and have a chance to win a medal for Australia. I feel like a very proud
mum. Besides being a mentor and part of the cheer squad for the aerial team, I
will be co-hosting part of the opening and closing ceremonies and will be an
expert commentator for the aerial skiing events.

The atmosphere for the winter games is much bigger overseas than it is here in
Australia. The Winter Olympics quickly creeps up on us after the Australian
Tennis Open; it lasts for 16 days, and then it’s straight on to the F1 Grand Prix
and AFL pre-season games. It is hard to get the southern hemisphere to focus on
winter sports during the mid-summer. In saying all of that, when the games are
on, Australia will have their eyes on our Australian athletes day and night!

How have your skills and experiences allowed you to transition from athlete to

I didn’t know it at the time, but everything I was doing in sport was helping me
prepare for ‘the outside world’. In aerial skiing I was filling a toolbox with skills
that are transferable to business, such as goal-setting, making plans, building a
team, managing a budget and my time, working under pressure, processes,
outcomes, commitment, leadership and processing feedback.

You persevered and achieved your sport goals and dreams. What do you dream
of doing nowadays?

When I was in sport, all I did was one thing – aerials. I committed all day, every
day to my sport. Now that I’m retired, I’m able to do more things and tick more
personal and professional boxes. I am more fulfilled. I am a mum to three
children, a company ambassador for La Trobe Financial, and I started my own
gluten-free product range, Food for Me. I own an event company, am a
professional speaker, and have just written two books. / “Life from great heights” / AB

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