Twelve years ago in Sydney, Yass Valley athlete Jaime Fernandez received an Olympic silver medal.
He was part of the men’s eights rowing team that crossed the line 0.8 seconds behind the United Kingdom.
It was the highlight of a rowing career that spanned three Olympic Games from 1992 to 2000 - and it could so easily have never happened.
Jaime grew up in the remote mining town of Gove in the Northern Territory. During his school years, the family moved to Adelaide and he had to choose a summer sport. He landed on rowing simply because one of his friends was doing it and he thought he’d give it a go.
His first sporting love in those days, however, was Aussie rules football and upon graduation of high school he played for West Adelaide without a second thought to rowing.
But chance played its part again.
There came a day when Jaime was asked to fill in for an absent rower on his university’s team. From that point on, something took a hold in him and he has not left rowing since.
At the Barcelona Games he came fifth in the eights, in Atlanta he came sixth and, eventually, in the Sydney Olympics, he and his crew won silver after failing to reel in a fast-starting British team.
Jaime is married to Mary-Jane Harding and they have two young children. He has effortlessly rolled his love of rowing into a rewarding and fulfilling career that has now taken him and his family to the London Games.
“Firstly, I am employed with Rowing Australia as the national coaching development manager,” he told the Tribune just prior to the Games.
“I am tasked with developing the high performance coaches within Australia. This includes the Olympic coaches and all national team coaches.”
Jaime explained that he is also the chair of the Athletes Commission. The commission gives athletes a voice to express their opinions and acts as a middle man between them and the national body.
“We aim to provide the best outcomes for all parties,” he said simply.
His role has also taken him to Bulgaria, Lithuania and Italy recently, with non-Olympic and junior rowing teams.
He told the Tribune that no matter what happened in London, he was happy with the Australian rowing team.
“All the athletes are incredibly focused. They are travelling well and I just can’t wait for it all to begin.”
He also explained why he gets so much out of his job.
“I guess for me the thing that is the most satisfying is seeing all the work of so many people translating into results.
“While the athletes are the true heroes, there are so many people working behind the scenes to ensure they can achieve their dreams. We all want the same thing for Australian athletes; to be successful and compete to the best of their ability.”
Jaime said he is a true fan of the big boat, the men’s eight, but unfortunately the Australian team wasn’t able to medal in its final on Wednesday evening.