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Beyond the Bale : June 2019
FROM PADDOCK TO TRACK Brought up on a sheep and beef farm on Tasmania’s King Island, 24-year-old distance runner Stewart McSweyn is without doubt one of Australia’s most talented athletes – and he now has his sights set on next year’s Olympics in Tokyo. Running sensation Stewart McSweyn has an impressive list of athletic achievements. In 2017 he represented his country in the 3,000m steeplechase at the World Championships held in London, and last year was the first Australian home in the 5,000m and 10,000m at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. He is currently ranked in the world top 10 for the latter two distances, with many people tipping him to be ‘the next Craig Mottram’ and Australia’s greatest ever distance runner. Most recently, he broke the Australian indoor 1500m record at the Indoor Grand Prix in Birmingham, England. But life began very differently for Stewart, who now lives in Melbourne where he trains with the elite Melbourne Track Club. He was brought up with his twin brother Angus and elder sister Carmen on his parent’s Merino sheep and beef property on Tasmania’s sparsely populated King Island. Anchored in the middle of the Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania’s north- west coast, King Island is one of the premier farming areas in Australia and is renowned for its high-quality beef, seafood, wool and of course cheese. It has an ideal climate for high- yielding, clean wool. “Wool and the farm were always a big part of growing up.” Stewart McSweyn His parents Scott and Jacky currently run about 2,000 Merinos and, although Stewart’s training and racing keep him away from the farm for most of the year, he looks forward to his visits home and occasionally helping out on the property. Stewart credits growing up on the family farm with making him a strong runner. “My father was a champion weightlifter, and we were always encouraged to take part in physical activity as kids. We’d do most sports including cricket and footy – and we’d Stewart training back home in the sheep paddocks of the family farm on Tasmania’s King Island. Stewart McSweyn being cheered on by the capacity 40,000 crowd during the 5000m final at last year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, where he achieved an impressive fifth place. PHOTO: AAP Image/Dean Lewins regularly run around and play on the farm which kept us fit and strong,” Stewart said. “Working on the farm certainly made me tougher. I’d help out with tasks such as building fences and grids and being a rouseabout in the shed at shearing time. Wool and the farm were always a big part of growing up. “The winter months on King Island are pretty cold too, so plenty of woollens were always worn.” Stewart started doing cross country running at school and his love for athletics soon took off from there. While he spends nearly half the year overseas, competing against the top runners in the world, his biggest fans are still his parents and siblings who all travel to see him race in Australia. He is also well supported by his 1500 fellow King Islanders, with him earning the nickname of the Mayor of King Island! He holds every Tasmanian record from 1500m to 10,000m and is always happy to compete back in Tasmania; he has won the famous Burnie Ten for the past two years. “I normally get to go home to King Island for a couple of weeks during Christmas which I really enjoy, catching up with family and friends,” Stewart said. “It’s a great place to run too. King Island is pretty hilly so I’ve always been able to do some good hard training sessions on the farm in the sheep paddocks.” Stewart’s immediate goal is to qualify for the Australian team going to the World Championships later this year in Doha, Qatar. But it is the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo that Stewart has his heart set on. We’re sure woolgrowers across Australia wish him well. 6 OFF FARM