From a cattle and sheep farm on King Island to the 2018 Commonwealth Games: Australian 10,000 metres champion Stewart McSweyn hits his stride. By Cindy MacDonald.
The Mayor: Stewart McSweyn, 22, runner
I think growing up on King Island did help make my body healthy and strong, and living on a farm you learn to become a bit tougher. I started running in the under 12s – so Year 5. I did the school cross-countries each year and the PE teacher noticed I had a bit of talent. King Island is pretty hilly with rough land and it’s probably helped me be able to do really hard training blocks.
My parents have an Angus beef and merino sheep farm and my mum works at the King Island hospital. My dad was a weightlifter – I think he won a couple of national medals – so he was a pretty solid athlete himself. I have a twin brother who is two minutes younger. He’s doing a podiatry degree. Being a runner, it’s pretty handy having a brother doing that.
How did I become known as the Mayor of King Island? I don’t really know how it started but now it’s getting a bit bigger so I’m going to run with it until the actual mayor of King Island says something. I saw him when I was back over Christmas and he didn’t say anything. I thought he might have. I’m happy to keep going with it until he does.
I’m definitely the first King Islander to qualify for Commonwealth Games, which is kind of cool. My mum and dad came over for the Zátopek:10 in Melbourne in December, and I had my brother and sister there as well. So to win the national title and book my spot on the Commonwealth Games team was pretty special. It was my first national track title; I’d won national cross-country before. I’ve qualified for the Commonwealth Games five kay as well.
I ran a 3:55 mile last year so I think I was ranked second or third in Australia for the mile. But I’d say I’m more suited to the longer stuff and have got a pretty fast finish in distance races.
I’m trained by Nic Bideau and train with his Melbourne Track Club. He’s got a good percentage of the best Australian distance guys – guys like Ryan Gregson and Brett Robinson, who are Olympic finalists. So I’ve definitely got a good stable of athletes to train with.
As a distance runner you are probably not at your best until you’re at least 26 or maybe a bit older. So I’m happy with how my progress is going and I’ll try to keep it moving forward. I think I’ll be 25 for the Tokyo Olympics so that’s a pretty good age to have a good crack at being really competitive there.
I went to boarding school in Ballarat when I was about 13, so that was probably the first time I’d really ventured away from the island. So, yeah, it’s pretty crazy now that I get to spend almost half the year overseas, coming from such a small place. But it is great when I do get to go home. I normally get to go home for just under a month around Christmas and just seeing the support you get back there and catching up with all your schoolmates, it’s probably the best time of the year. I had a fair dig at the King Island cheese, too, when I was back – I’d say I like the brie the most – so it will hopefully hold me in good stead leading into the Commonwealth Games.
I’m halfway through my physical education teaching degree. In the long term I’d love to stay in Melbourne but I’ve been looking into doing some of my teaching placements on King island, so I’m definitely keen to go back there for at least a period.
When I was younger I was lucky enough to watch live the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. And I just remember going to the athletics and how crazy the crowd was. Seeing Craig Mottram win silver in the five kay was pretty special with 80,000 or 90,000 people all cheering for one guy. That’s one race that sticks in my head and ever since then I wanted to make the international stage. Mottram really showed the Australian distance guys that you can be highly competitive on the world stage, especially with a lot of the strong East African nations.
The loneliness of the long-distance runner? It doesn’t actually get that lonely when you’re travelling round the world with five or six of your best mates. I really enjoy it.
This week’s highlights…
• 2018 Commonwealth Games
Wednesday until April 15, Gold Coast, Queensland
• NRL: Sydney Roosters v New Zealand Warriors
Saturday, 5.30pm (AEDT), Allianz Stadium, Sydney
• Cricket: Australia v South Africa, 4th Test, Day 2
Saturday, 7pm (AEDT), New Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg
• A-League: Melbourne Victory v Western Sydney Wanderers
Saturday, 7.50pm (AEDT), AAMI Park, Melbourne
• Motorsport: Bathurst 6 Hour
Sunday, 11.30am (AEST), Mount Panorama, Bathurst
• AFL: Sydney Swans v Port Adelaide
Sunday, 4.40pm (AEST), Sydney Cricket Ground
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 31, 2018 as "The Mayor".
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