Monash medical graduate and swimming sensation, Jack Gerrard’s quest for Olympic gold

After finally completing his medical studies following seven years at Monash University, saving lives doesn’t seem to be the only thing on graduate Jack Gerrard’s radar.

With plans to send off his swimming career with one last bang — the 2021 Olympic Games — we spoke to the star athlete to find out how he plans to manage his medical and sporting obligations, while striving for gold.

Congratulations on graduating medical school! What a fantastic achievement. What are your career plans from here forward?

Thank you! It has been a long journey of more than seven years with two years off from my studies whilst I was competing internationally. Before starting work, I took some time to reflect on my journey and have been feeling immensely grateful for all the amazing experiences I have had as well as the lessons I have learnt from years of studying medicine while swimming competitively. The Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences (FMNHS), the Elite Student Performer Scheme (ESPS) and Monash University overall have really stretched themselves to support and help me balance my interests in medicine and my commitments to the Australian Swim Team.

Looking forward, I am excited for the road ahead and as one door closes, another opens. Being able to contribute to a patient’s care and function as a junior member of a busy medical team is a big step up from medical school, and I am going to focus on being as proficient and efficient as I can be. As an intern at Monash Health, I am looking forward to experiencing a wide range of medicine, surgery and emergency.

How do you think your swimming endeavours will fit into this going forward?

If I am honest, I didn’t expect to still be swimming at a competitive level at all in 2021. Competitive swimming demands a large amount of time every day/week/year and it’s not really possible to remain competitive unless you’re training more than 20 hours a week. Early in 2020, I was feeling confident in my form and looking forward to the Olympic trials, having planned for last year to be my final year of competition. However, last year was a disaster in many ways and when people’s lives were at risk, sport had to take the back seat for a while. It was clear that the compromise was necessary, but it was a huge loss.

With this all in mind, I have made the choice to continue balancing swimming alongside my work as a doctor until the Olympic trials, which are scheduled to take place in the middle of this year. After 17 years in the sport, it didn’t feel right to finish on a lost opportunity and I wanted to conclude the Olympic cycle regardless of the imperfect timing. I’m a few weeks into my internship now and whilst it’s busy, I’m managing my obligations to both commitments so far. I’m not sure if the Olympics will eventuate but the chance to work towards that dream with my fellow squad members is still an exciting prospect.

Do you have any major swimming events coming up?

Yes, finally! My training squad is racing the Victorian State Champs in February with the plan to use the meet as a stepping stone to build the rest of our Olympic trials preparation. Other than the chance to race a virtual National Short Course Championship late last year, it has been over a year since I’ve raced with interstate athletes so I’m looking forward to being back!

Have your peers/mentors been supportive in your swimming endeavours over the years? Alternatively, has your swimming community been supportive in your medical endeavours?

I’ve been super lucky to have great support from my peers, mentors, and the surrounding community throughout my time of balancing both swimming and university. Fellow medical students were always willing to help me catch up on theory if I had fallen behind in my studies or missed teaching due to a key sporting competition. Conversely, the swimming community was often a breath of fresh air from the busy routine of medical school. I have trained alongside many of my squad members since I moved to Melbourne 11 years ago and I know how lucky I am to have such a close knit team. We have been through many highs and lows together, and they know how to make me laugh even if I’m not feeling my best.

How did Team Monash help you juggle both your academic and sporting goals whilst at university?

For me, due to both the duration of my medical degree and the large number of hours spent studying, I have been fortunate to liaise with many great staff within the FMNHS on an ongoing basis for a long time. As the years went by, I developed a strong relationship with the Faculty and have made many long-lasting mentor relationships that I am incredibly grateful for. When liaising with the Faculty, being a member of the ESPS provided the reassurance of being associated with a legitimate university program and enabled Team Monash to advocate on my behalf if I ever had trouble reaching a positive solution. The ESPS also assisted me with international travel grants and the chance to meet like-minded students at Monash who shared similar passions. The connection eventually led to a group of Monash students entering the Australian University Nationals (Division 1) Swimming Championships where we went on to claim the Men’s Swimming National Title (and had a huge amount of fun together along the way)!

Do you have a message/advice to anyone trying to excel in two fields?

I think the biggest lesson I learned is that you can achieve your goals in different fields but don’t lose hope if it doesn’t all happen at once. Things might take time and you may have to focus on one thing at a time every now and then. Don’t lose track during the hard times and enjoy the journey. It’s all possible!

It has been a pleasure working with you Jack, and we wish you all the best for your Olympic endeavours and beyond.