Mother of three. Motivational speaker. Doctor-in-training. Western Sydney advocate.
While the statuesque brunette is a household name thanks to her athletic prowess, the same tenacity that drove her to sporting success is now a force to be reckoned with as Jana Pittman turns her attention to achieving other lifelong dreams.
Now in her 30s, motherhood has always been on the agenda for Jana and she has been refreshingly candid about her personal journey to create the family she has always wanted. Overjoyed when she fell pregnant to her former husband with son Cornelius, Jana took matters into her own hands when the relationship broke down.
Inspired by a businesswoman she had met years earlier, Jana underwent IVF to have daughter Emily. IVF baby number two, Jemima, was welcomed earlier this year after being conceived using the same sperm donor as her sister.
While footage of a glowing Jana training while eight months pregnant with Emily went viral across Australia, she admits that pregnancy with Jemima was a bit trickier.
The difficult pregnancy and her goal of becoming a doctor (Jana is currently completing studies with Western Sydney University) motivated her to become an ambassador for the Coleman Greig Challenge.
The annual October event for Western Sydney based businesses raises money for children with special needs and newborn care. It was a cause close to Jana’s heart after her own difficulties and her aspirations, when qualified, to assist women experiencing complications throughout pregnancy.
“Taking a tour with businesses involved in the Challenge, of the neonatal ward at Westmead where I’m doing practical hours, really drove home that becoming a doctor in this area is what I want to do with my life,” she said.
Funds from the Challenge last year purchased vital lifesaving equipment for premature babies, and Jana is determined to help the three charity partners to raise even more in 2017.
“At six months pregnant, it was quite an eye opener to realise that the amazing staff in the ward were helping babies younger than mine to thrive.”
Having shot to acclaim as twice World Champion and four times Commonwealth Champion in athletics, Jana became the first woman to represent Australia in both summer and winter Olympic games, after swapping the track for the ice to join the Australian Women's bobsleigh team.
Contrary to all appearances, Jana recently admitted that life after sports is a difficult transition, particularly as she never achieved her childhood dream of winning gold at the Olympics. Talking about her experiences on SBS’s Insight in April this year, Jana said that “I'm not really sure I've actually coped with it yet. I think it's probably the hardest thing I've ever dealt with.”
As is common with many elite athletes, Jana’s identity has long been intrinsically linked to her sporting achievements. Unlike many in their pursuit of glory however, Jana maintained her schooling, determined to provide herself with options post-athletics. She applied the same rigour she had for training to studying, and explained that her best years as an athlete were mirrored by her best years academically.
“I’m a planner. I worked hard to achieve a good balance between the track and my studies, and that has paid off for me. It’s allowed me to pursue a life after sports, and in an area where I can make a genuine difference to other women experiencing fertility issues.”
A newly published author of Just Another Hurdle, Jana said, “There has been so much written about me in the media over the years that I wanted a chance to put forward my version, in my own words.”
The book is an honest, and at times raw, account of both Jana’s successes and her battles with injury and loss.
Busy with her family, completing her remaining two years of studies and guest speaking engagements — by all accounts Jana should have her hands full. But what about that elusive Olympic Gold?
Jana admits that she’s got her eye on Tokyo so stay tuned — if anyone can do it…