I began speed skating at 11. I’ve always done things differently. Aussie kids going swimming is normal, going ice skating isn’t. After tormenting Mum about swimming lessons, I was silenced when she took me skating. The local speed skating coach suggested I try it and I was hooked!
I enjoyed the competitiveness, progressing to be one of Australia’s fastest skaters. I’ve never been afraid to dream big as it gives you that extra drive towards your goal. One of my biggest achievements was representing NSW in the Duke Trophy, where the best skaters from various states compete. My dream was to compete at the Winter Olympics, so being selected to train with the Australian national team, alongside Olympic and World Championship representatives, was amazing.
But in April 2011 my blade got caught in something on the ice, instantly snapping the bones in my leg. I sort of knew as soon as it happened that I wouldn’t be able to continue, but I didn’t want to believe it. I wasn’t really sure how to feel. I’d never had anything like that happen to me before. I was in excruciating pain but never had a negative attitude, always determined to get back as I’m not the type of person that can sit still for long. The first week doing nothing was nice but after that I just wanted to get better and back into sport.
Because I couldn’t do anything during my recovery, it gave me time to explore other interests and that’s when I started to get into F1. When I was younger I didn’t like racing and the first time I went karting as a kid I actually hated it! But I began to appreciate the precision in the manufacturing and driving, and the competitiveness of it all.
My family were very supportive, and I think quite surprised as I was a shy, quiet boy. Motorsport released a competitive animal inside that even I didn’t know was there! So far racing cars has been safer than speed skating, not only have I had fewer injuries, but I’ve seen less too. I’m all too aware how dangerous the sport can be, but it’s also extremely rewarding. That’s what makes us racing drivers, because for us that far outweighs any potential dangers.
I’m often asked if I miss speed skating, and while I had loads of fun, meeting great people, that chapter of my life is firmly closed. I really enjoyed it, but I definitely prefer motorsport. Once I started karting the feeling was better than any victory or success I had skating. Gaining my first podium on an F1 track this year was exhilarating and inspires me to achieve even more. I’ve grown massively under the guidance of a sports physiologist and I’m enjoying my racing more than ever.
I’ve always done things differently and I’m taking that uniqueness to my approach to racing. I hope I can also use this as a platform to inspire others to do the same too.
Photograph Jodie Hill