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Jack Ireland – Anything Is Possible

Photo Credit: Swimming Australia

Jack Ireland has been swimming most of his life, he has competed at Virtus Global Games, Commonwealth Games and World Para Swimming World Championships and this year he will become a Paralympian.

Jack’s swimming journey started in primary school in Newcastle competing in school events and over the years progressed to national Championships, both at School and Swimming Australia multi class events.  In 2013 he moved to Gladstone where he swam with the Gladstone Gladiators. As Jack’s times improved he was identified by Australian coach Herbie Howard and soon qualified for his first National team the 2015 Virtus Global Games in Ecuador.  At 16, he made his first national team travelling to Ecuador where he swam the 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle events and the 400m and 200m freestyle relays collecting a Silver medal in the 200m relay.

The following year his family moved from Gladstone to Brisbane where he joined the University of Queensland Swim Club and met his current coach David Heyden. It was about this time that Jack started to take his swimming seriously, he competed at Age Nationals and the 2016 Rio Paralympic trials.

In 2017, Jack was selected as a member of the Australian Dolphins and toured the USA competing in his first World Para Series. In 2018, he was selected again in the Australian Dolphins team to compete at the Para Pan Pacs in Cairns.

2019  was a breakout year for Jack competing at the Virtus Global Games in Brisbane with his coach David Heyden by his side. And then the World Para Swimming Championships in London.  But just as his swimming career was taking off the World was hit with the Covid pandemic closing swimming pools all around the world and stopping competition.  It was a tough time for all athletes and particularly Jack, he managed to focus on his fitness and was able to get some valuable time in the water with open water swims off the Sunshine coast.

In 2021, Jack was keen to trial for the Paralympics, his two events were the 200m Freestyle and potentially the 4 x 100m mixed relay.  As the trials approached Jack had started to feel more and more confident that he had a chance, unfortunately he finished 3rd in the 200m freestyle and 2nd S14 swimmer in the 100m freestyle missing selection.  It was a tough time for Jack he had worked hard and had set his sights on paralympic selection.

Photo Credit: Swimming Australia

The following year things started to turn around, he had outstanding results at Nationals and was selected for the 2022 World Para swimming Championships in Madeira, Portugal and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. He finished 4th in Madeira in his 200m freestyle just behind fellow Australian Ben Hance.   Just prior to his departure for Birmingham Jack swam in a short course meet in Australia and over 3 days he smashed the Virtus World short course records for the 50m, 100m and 200m freestyle events.  Accordingly he went into the Games full of confidence and returned with another Bronze medal in his main event the 200m freestyle.

“The Commonwealth Games was a great experience, we didn’t swim till the last day, but it was wonderful being in the team and supporting and being supported by all swimmers” Ireland said.

Returning to Australia he took a short break and then along with his coach David Heyden started to plan for the 2023 World Para swimming Championships in Manchester. Jack swam well in Manchester collecting another Bronze medal and continued to lower his time.  Jack also collected a Silver as a member of the mixed relay team.

It was around this time that Jack began to believe “That anything was Possible”.

2024 has been an amazing year for Jack, setting a personal best of 1:53.  At nationals and then swimming well under the qualifying time for the 200m freestyle event at the Paralympic trials.  The disappointment of 2021 was well behind him, but he still had a nervous wait despite his 2 qualifying swims.  “I swam the 200m freestyle on Day 1, and even though I was well under the qualifying time I had to wait till the last night when they finally select the team, so I was a bit anxious.” Jack said.

That last night alongside all other swimmers Jack waited patiently and anxiously for the text message that invites him into the room where the swimmers were told they were going to Paris and shortly afterwards he emerged in uniform proudly holding his boarding pass as a member of the 2024 Australian paralympic team.

Jack knows his competitors well and knows it will be a tough swim but with his coach David Heyden alongside him he is confident he will be in top form, and as he now believes “Anything is Possible.

The Australian swim team will leave Australia for Paris on the 12th of August bound for Chartres where they will go into camp before heading to the Paralympic village in Paris.  Chartres is a familiar location for the swimmers who have attended staging camps there in previous years.

Before the Games begin Jack will celebrate his 25th Birthday with his team mates in the Paralympic village.  While his family will have to wait to celebrate his birthday with him, Jack will have a big family entourage (Mum, Dad, Aunties, Nan and a cousin) watching every swim and yelling encouragement from the grandstands.

Jack recently acknowledged Daniel Fox as his source of inspiration.  “My inspiration comes from Daniel Fox.  Foxy inspired me at the Rio Games and he was a mentor to me.  I hope that I could one day be like Foxy.” Jack said.

Jack is well on his way to being like “Foxy”, he is now a Paralympian and he is Australia’s fastest ever S14 200m freestyle swimmer.

Jack will swim his 200m freestyle heat and final on the 31st of August.

Australia Day honours list awards the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) to Robyn Smith for service to people with a disability through sport

The Chief Executive Officer of Sport Inclusion Australia for over 30 years Robyn Smith has dedicated her life to improving the lives of people with a disability.

“It is a privilege to be recognised and receive this award for a role that I cherish. I am just as passionate today as I was in 1991 when I started with Sport Inclusion Australia to represent and advocate for social inclusion of people with a disability using sport as the medium. I am also extremely thankful to Marie Little OAM for providing me this opportunity and all Board members since who have supported me. I am humbled to accept his honour on behalf of the movement and all the athletes we represent who continue to inspire me on a daily basis.”   Smith said.

In 2007 Smith’s mentor, friend and founder of Sport Inclusion Australia Marie T Little OAM was also recognised. Smith was privileged to be invited by Little to attend her OAM Investiture ceremony, knowing she is sharing an honour also bestowed on Little will add significance to the honour for Smith.

Sport Inclusion Australia President Helen Croxford has worked closely with Smith since joining the Board in 2015 and has been amazed by her drive, passion and commitment.  Robyn has dedicated her career to ensuring that people with an impairment are heard and seen and have the opportunity to participate in sport at all levels. Her philosophy is and always will be “person first” and she has worked tirelessly with International,  National and State Sporting Organisations, all levels of Government and the wider community to advocate for more inclusive practices for the cohort she represents. Robyn was recently elected onto the International Paralympics Governing Board. A great individual achievement which will provide Robyn with a platform to continue advocating for people with an intellectual disability.” Croxford said.

Working with National and State Sporting Organisations Smith has been instrumental and has had a lead role in the establishment of pathways and opportunities for athletes with an intellectual disability.  Outside of the Paralympic pathway events such the Ivor Burge Basketball Championships, Australian Tennis Championships, Lord’s Taverners Indoor Cricket and Football Integration Development Association (FIDA) have been providing ongoing competition and pathways for athletes for more than 25 years.

Smith’s passion for improving the lives of others goes beyond her role with Sport Inclusion Australia and people with an intellectual impairment.  Smith started her working life as a teacher with a passion for teaching and enriching the lives of her students.  An elite Netballer in her day, Smith transitioned to coaching in 1990 and has tackled this with the same passion at club, regional and state level.  Robyn was acknowledged for her services to Netball with life membership at Benalla Saints Sports Club and the Goulburn Valley Netball League.

Peter Ryan OAM, President of FIDA recalls his first meeting with Smith in 1991, “I first met Robyn in 1991 working with the Hawthorn Football Club and City Council to develop a competition pathway for football players with an intellectual disability.  Robyn’s passion and commitment for inclusion and providing social inclusion pathways through sport was as strong then as it is now.”  From those early beginning the FIDA competition has grown to become the pinnacle football competition for players with an intellectual impairment in Australia with over 800 players and 3 leagues across Victoria.  In 2017 the competition expanded with the inclusion of a National event run by the AFL with teams from all states participating.

As Vice President of Virtus Smith has also worked tirelessly with her counterparts around the world making a difference to the lives of hundreds of athletes and growing the awareness and advocacy for elite pathways in sport.

Alongside the sports of Basketball, AFL, Tennis, Cricket and Indoor cricket, athletes now have opportunities to compete at local, state and National level in a wide ranges of sports, pathways that are sustained by the sporting organisations and contribute not only to the lives of people with a disability but also the sporting community who are also richer for their engagement.

In 2018 Smith took on the additional role as CEO of the Global Games Organising Committee.  The Games held in 2019 raised the profile of the athletes, showcased what they can achieve and opened doors.  The success of this event was largely due to Smith’s passion, belief and commitment which impacted on all who worked for her to deliver the Games.

Athletes have always been the focus of Robyn’s work, her “person first” philosophy and commitment to inclusion drives her every day.

In 2021, Smith was elected to the International Paralympic Committee Governing Board, a position that also provides her a seat on the 2032 Brisbane Olympic and Paralympic Games Organising Committee.  In addition to these commitments, Smith is also on the:

FIBA World Cup organising committee (present),
Virtus Governing Board, Vice President since 2015,
Chair of the Australian Sporting Alliance for People with a Disability (2021),
Coaching Netball at Benalla Saints Sports Club (1998-2022),
Driving force in the Benalla Walk 2 Dfeet MND committee which has raised over $500k from within the Benalla community towards MND research, and importantly
a mother to Dene, Georgia and Martine who not surprisingly share their mothers drive, passion and “person first’ philosophy.

On behalf of the Board of Sport Inclusion Australia and the thousands of athletes you represent and strive to provide a better world for, we congratulate you on your OAM and we are very proud of your achievements.



  • Robyn Smith 0418 979 459,
  • Helen Croxford 0419 327 837