Tokyo Olympic face sharks and crocodiles on her way to Games

Nautical Channel
26 Jul 2021
NEWS | Canoe/Kayak, Olympics

Jo Brigden-Jones, bronze medalist at the Szeged World Championship,  has encountered on several occasions sharks and crocodiles during her Olympic training. 

“When you see a big splash you know it’s a shark down there.” 

Despite encountering these unpredictable animals, the Australian kayaker Jo Brigden-Jones was extremely relaxed about sharing her training facility with these predators. She often trained surrounded by bull sharks: these carnivorous sharks are 2.4m long and weigh 130kg. However, she did not seem to be very nervous about this as they are not like great whites, as she says. 

If this was not enough, dodging crocodiles and working on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as running a cupcake business as a “side-hustle” are some of the common day-to-day duties of Jo Brigden-Jones. 

Her second Olympic Games

While training for these Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Jo’s second Games, she did not miss any time at all. For most athletes, training for the hardest sport event in the world is a full time job. However, she managed to combine her career as an elite athlete with saving lives as a paramedic. 

Jo combined training on rivers or working out in the gym with working night shifts and emergency call outs. Moreover, when the pandemic hit, it became increasingly important for Olympic Kayaker Jo Brigden Jones to do her best in the frontline. 

“You go from hearing about it all the time, talking about it, and all the what-ifs to it staring you in the face.”

She had qualified for the Olympic Games a few weeks before the Games were postponed by 12 months. Tokyo 2020 represents for Jo a reward after a long career, and after having missed out on the 2008 and 2016 Games, this will probably be her last chance to be part of the Games once more. 

An end of career doesn’t scare her

Despite her contemplating leaving her career as an elite kayaker, she has found another love. 

“That medical side of things always interested me, and what I discovered I was passionate about - having an impact on your community.” 

Jo Brigden-Jones has found being a paramedic a fun, exciting and rewarding job. Even if it drains both her time and energy, Jo says working while also training as a kayaker has been very helpful in her personal and professional life. 

Moreover, while training for the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics amidst strict Covid regulations meant she was forced to go to a different state to join a training bubble. This led Jo to include a new career in her CV: cupcake baking. 

“I’ve always had a passion for baking and cakes and a sweet tooth - it turned from a bit of a hobby into a side-hustle and business as well.”