Raising an Athlete

We asked Walter and Nerida, parents of Jacko Gill, the 16-year-old world champion shot putter, what it was like raising an athlete.

what was Jacko good at in school?

He could be good at school, often excelling in maths and he was quite an accomplished writer. However, in December 2010, Jacko came to us with a three page letter he had written, explaining his desire to leave school and chase his dream of competing at the Olympics. Jacko left school that month, having just turned 16-years-old, with no qualifications and a big dream to succeed.

was Jacko a fussy eater?

Eating for Jacko was at times not easy. As a child, he faded in and out of periods where he seemed not to want to eat at all. He has never eaten fruit, and vegetables were only consumed with lashings of cheese sauce. As a teenager and athlete, he is careful not to eat unhealthy foods.

when did Jacko start doing athletics?

Jacko began athletics at 9-years-old, having played soccer, cricket, basketball and seido karate. He was accomplished at whatever he put his hand to, though more by desire than raw talent. He enjoyed the shot put most because his progress could be measured with a tape and he was always trying to throw it a little further.

how much training did Jacko do once he started competing?

By age 10, Jacko held his first Auckland record throwing the shot put. He had already taken to training six days a week, eighty throws a day, rain or shine. We even had to rig up lights and many times he would throw at 11pm at night if we had been out.

has Jacko always been competitive?

Jacko never wanted to just take part, he always tried to excel. He had a belief even at 10-years-old that he could become the best there has ever been. His Olympic dream began about then. Jacko never made himself boundaries in sport, he would look at the next record and remark: “I can get that.”

what other sport would Jacko do if he wasn’t a shotputter?

Jacko was a talented cricketer where his big hitting is remembered and he was also a very fast bowler. He diplayed talent at soccer, boxing and basketball. However he chose a sport where he could control his own destiny - get the qualifying distance and you can’t be left out of a team.

does Jacko have time for other sports or hobbies?

As a 16-year-old, Jacko’s hobby is keeping in touch with the many friends he has made competing worldwide. Among them are many World Record holders and Olympic champions. He receives hundreds of emails asking for training tips and offers to compete etc. There is no longer any time for other sports.

who are Jacko’s role models?

Jacko has two main role models, Usain Bolt, and world senior shot put record holder, Randy Barnes. Usain because he knew no boundaries when chasing the World 100m record; and Randy because he trained on his own and did not need encouragement from others to succeed. However, at crucial times, there has been influence from local role models Graham May, Courtenay Ireland, Nigel Avery, Roy Williams and Sir Les Mills.

what aspects of Jacko’s personality have helped him be so successful?

Jacko was something of a loner and preferred family life rather than groups of his peers. However, he was always popular at school and kids accepted that nothing interfered with his training. He has always been very single-minded and never gives up. If the result he wants is not being achieved, then he will think of a different way to get it.

as Jacko’s parents, how have you supported him?

We always looked to foster the will to succeed in Jacko and we would have supported him whether he chose music, table tennis or chess. We gave him praise when he did well, just as we would tell him if he had done wrong. We gave him our time, and only a little money. We travelled to every practice and every game, he always knew he had our support.

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