'Jakara fever' strikes former school of Aussie Winter Olympic gold medallist

When Aussie moguls skiing champion Jakara Anthony claimed gold at the Winter Olympics last weekend, hundreds of students and staff from her former school – Christian College Geelong in southwest Melbourne – were glued to the screen.

Anthony’s win in the women’s moguls made her the sixth Australian ever to claim gold at the Winter Olympics. And while her victory was, of course, greatly celebrated among the Christian College Geelong community, it did not come as a surprise.

From the moment she set foot inside the college’s Bellarine Campus in Drysdale, Jakara stood out for her commitment and determination to achieve her best, says principal, Glen McKeeman.

“The world has now seen the trajectory she’s followed to achieve that long-held goal of being the best athlete on the planet in her chosen discipline, but her peers and teachers at Christian College knew a long time ago that she had the motivation, application and temperament to get where she wanted to be,” he enthuses.

Anthony, now 23, graduated from the college in 2016. Throughout her secondary school years, she was involved in intensive training programs for her beloved sport of skiing. As her home on the Bellarine Peninsula is a long way from the snowfields, this meant often spending time away from her family, friends and school. So Anthony became familiar with remote schooling long before COVID.

“[Jakara is] an outstanding and much-admired human being.” – Glen McKeeman, principal, Christian College Geelong

But despite the challenges, Anthony managed to complete much of her school work remotely, including during the vital last two years. And she also still managed to participate in sports competitions at school.

“She’s always loved sport – she never missed competing in Christian College house sporting carnivals every year she was a student here,” says McKeeman.

“She is still able to find that balance between all facets of her life. While achieving at the highest possible level as an athlete, she is also completing a degree at Deakin University,” he adds.

It’s not just Anthony’s performance and achievements that have made a big impact on the college’s community. Her character and her generosity as a role model have been particularly significant.

“There are many current teachers and ex-students who know Jakara from school days, and beyond, as an outstanding and much-admired human being. They are feeling so incredibly proud of what she has done,” shares McKeeman.

“Even while she was preparing for competition and receiving countless well-wishes from Australians everywhere, Jakara took the time to send a video message to students of Taylor House at Christian College Senior School (which she belonged to as a student), wishing them well for the year ahead.”

“We are expecting her to visit the school again when she returns from Beijing and this will have a big impact on students.” – Simon Garner, Christian College Geelong

Jakara was already a “household name” among the college community before her win at this year’s Winter Games, says Simon Garner, the college’s marketing and publications manager.

“She spoke at several campus assemblies after her last Olympics where she finished fourth. We are expecting her to visit the school again when she returns from Beijing and this will have a big impact on students. The posters and hype around the college – particularly at Bellarine Campus and senior school, both of which she attended, have set a strong ‘Jakara theme’ around the place over the last week or so, which again, is something that impacts very positively on our students.”

Anthony’s win will be particularly inspiring for other Olympic hopefuls among the college’s student body.

“We have had other students achieving well in athletics events at the top level, including Damian Birkinhead who represented Australia in shotput at the 2016 Rio Olympics. He finished tenth in the final,” says Garner.

“There are a couple of brothers at our Bellarine Campus, Aidan and Callum Simmons (Year 8 and 6, respectively) who are achieving incredible things nationally in the world of sailing at their age level. We are keeping a close eye on their progress.”

In the meantime, Garner says the college – and in fact, the whole of Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula – is looking forward to welcoming Jakara home when she returns from Beijing.