Athletic champion fights adversity to stay in Bundaberg

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Taryn Gollshewsky
Taryn Gollshewsky trains hard to be an Australia athlete. Photo: Paul Donaldson

Bundaberg athletic star Taryn Gollshewsky has overcome adversity to continue her dream of becoming a world champion while staying in the Bundaberg Region.

Her story started when she joined Bargara Little Athletics as an eight year old.

 “I was one of those kids who just loved sport and would just give absolutely anything a go,” Taryn said.

“At the age of 10, I made my first Wide Bay team, at the age of 12 I was the best discus thrower in Queensland.

“And at the age of 13 I was the best discus thrower in Australia for my age.”

Now her personal best discus throw is 60.62m.

But it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the “small town girl from regional Australia”. Taryn shared her story to inspire others to follow their dreams, no matter what was thrown at them.

Google is a wonderful tool

Taryn said like any athlete she had some turning points in her career.

The first at the age of 15 when Taryn made a bet with her mother Tracey as they approached the sporting stadium in Brisbane for the State Athletics championships.

“My mum offered me a deal, if I broke the Queensland State Record of 44 metres she would buy me a new phone,” Taryn said.

“It was raining outside, just pouring rain, which is miserable weather for discus.

“The concrete circle would be very wet – it made it very slippery conditions and difficult for discus.

“But being a very competitive person I said ‘game on mum’”.

Taryn went on to throw 46 metres, clearing the record by 2 metres and she walked away not only a new record holder, but with that new mobile phone.

Taryn said this memory was clear in her mind, but it was the events that took place some months later that changed her life.

“My mum was Googling my name and came across a list of athletes; it was a list of athletes who had qualified for the IAAF World Youth Athletic Championships.

“There was my name Taryn Gollshewsky, 46.45 metres.

“My record-breaking throw had qualified me to represent Australia and we found out by Google.”

At this point Taryn and her mother Tracey realised by living in Bundaberg they were sheltered from the elite athletic world.

Taryn said at the time there were no local athletes showing her the way up to the elite world.

“We had to figure everything out for ourselves,” Taryn said.

Taryn Gollshewsky
Bundaberg athlete Taryn Gollshewsky throwing discus. Photo Paul Donaldson

Taryn told to move to succeed in athletics

Graduating from Kepnock State High School at 17 years of age, Taryn had the world at her feet but was told she must leave Bundaberg in order to succeed.

“I was offered a dozen scholarships for colleges in America including UCLA and Stanford, so some big names there, and also a place at AIS (Australian Institute of Sport),” Taryn said.

“I had to make the decision to move, to leave Bundaberg, and the only thing I was certain about was that I had dreams that I wanted to achieve.

“I contacted Athletics Australia being our national sporting body seeking advice.”

Taryn said she was told if she wanted to succeed and make it to be an elite athlete she would have to move away from a regional town to a big city.

“They said it was not possible to make it from a regional town.”

However Taryn didn't buy in to that way of thinking.

“Everything is possible,” she said.

Passing up opportunities to train at some of the best facilities in the world at 17, Taryn made the decision to stay in the place she loves, her hometown of Bundaberg.

“I got to continue my journey surrounded by my supportive family and my incredible coach, Les Kuorikoski,” she said.

“When people learnt of my decision I was immediately dropped from the Queensland Academy of Sport and national funding teams.

“According to them, I wasn’t willing to make sacrifices for my career and therefore I wasn’t going to succeed.

“So, while my fellow athletes received funding and lived the true elite athletic life, just training and living, I was non-financial, so at 18 I started working as a teacher-aid while studying as well.

Dedication sees Taryn represent Australia in athletics

Training her way through 80 hour weeks, Taryn said it was not only difficult and lonely, but an extremely busy life to maintain.

Despite all of this, in 2014 at the age of 21, Taryn was selected to represent Australia in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

“This was my first senior Australian team and I was very, very excited, but that feeling soon turned to feelings of inadequacy,” Taryn said.

 “I went out into the village and I was surrounded by athletes who had absolutely everything, everything that I didn’t have.

“From physios, psychologist, massage therapist, clothing sponsors, nutritionist, you name it they had it.

“They were true professionals everything I aspired to be like, then there was me, this small town-country girl whose major sponsor was bank of mum.”

Taryn said it was that moment she felt like Athletics Australia had been right, that by staying in Bundaberg, she had distanced herself from the elite athletic world.

“I felt like a complete amateur at that moment,” she said.

An uplifting moment

It wasn’t until days later while training her life changed again, as she was offered a track to train alongside Sally Pearson.

“I was feeling like a complete amateur, I was so in awe of Sally as she was talking to me,” Taryn said.

“Then mid-sentence she looked over my shoulder and acknowledged someone walking over to us.

“I turned around and walking towards me was Usain Bolt.

“This uplifting moment was one of the biggest points in my career.”

Taryn said after doubting her decision to stay in Bundaberg and doubting her own ability of achieving her dreams she realised the company she was keeping.

“I was on the other side of the world, representing my country on the highest level, surrounded by the best athletes in the history of sport.

“And I had overcome every adversity thrown at me and I was living my dream.”

Taryn said after being told a number of times it wasn’t possible to be an elite athlete and live in Bundaberg, she was proof anything is possible if you believe in yourself.

“I followed my heart, I stayed in Bundaberg, and I continue to fulfil my dreams,” she said.

A Bundaberg life for Taryn

Taryn continues to live in the Bundaberg Region and is a qualified teacher with two university degrees.

She has been selected to represent Australia at the Oceania Championships in discus and shot put, which will take place at the end of the month in Townsville.

Assistance for local athletes

Bundaberg Regional Council has an initiative to help young athletes represent Queensland and Australia called Young People in Sport.  

The program aims to assist young athletes living in the Bundaberg Regional Council area by providing a grant to assist with the cost of representing at Queensland, at national sporting competitions or representing Australia at International sporting competitions.

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