Graham Croker
Jane Spring, one of the stalwarts of women’s rowing at the University of Sydney, has been honoured with an Honorary Fellowship of the University for her contribution to the sport, the club and the institution.
The Fellowship was conferred at a graduation ceremony last week when new graduates were told of a remarkable person, her accomplishments and her worthy contribution to university life.
The citation for the Fellowship said Jane has been an inspiration to the University community for two decades. “She is an example of how to meet and triumph over adversity and face disability with courage, determination and intelligence,” the citation said. “Her story and her accomplishments personify Sydney University’s central ideals and vision.
After enrolling at the University in 1982 to study economics, Jane moved into Women’s College for her honours year and it was there she was introduced to rowing with the College Club. Soon after, a group from the College formed the Sydney University Women’s Rowing Club.
Jane was elected the inaugural President and remains so to this day, 22 years later. Since June 1986 she has competed or coached in rowing every year in the Australian Universities Games. She has also skied for the University.
“I became obsessed with rowing in 1988,” Jane said in her address to the graduates. “The club was very small and I had to buy my own single scull. My rowing really took off when Murray Clark (now her husband) started coaching me.”
Her obsession bore fruit and she went on to row in the NSW Lightweight four in 1989 before turning to sculling. She won the NSW Champion Lightweight Scull twice and the Australian Lightweight Double Sculling championship and was named Sydney University Women’s Sports Association Sportswoman of the Year in 1990.
On the verge of representing Australia, Jane’s life was changed forever when she was involved in a car accident.
“I was set to represent Australia in 1990 when I was in a car accident and I spent five months in hospital instead,” she said. “I have since represented NSW in wheelchair basketball twice.”
At the time of the accident, Jane was a graduate in economics and law and admitted as a solicitor. She was one of the best women rowers in Australia and was expected to be a world-class Olympic rower.
As the citation said, “if this was not to be, equivalent achievement in sports administration became one of her central goals to the infinite advantage of rowing, Sydney University and Australian sport, especially the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
“Jane, in her new life, first established herself as a wheelchair athlete. She took up wheelchair basketball and within 12 months was chosen in the NSW Women’s Basketball team for 1991 National Championships, where the team were silver medallists. Jane was in the team which repeated this performance in the 1992 National Championships.
“As well as continuing as President of Sydney University Women’s Rowing Club, Jane had also been elected as a National Universities Rowing Co-ordinator for Australian University Sport and a committee member of the Sydney University Women’s Sports Association.
“Her life was transformed when Sydney was selected for the 2000 Olympics. Jane was in the first echelon of sports administrators who were enlisted for the Sydney 2000 Games. This group became the famous “SOCOG” – Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and Jane’s employer for six years from 1994-2000.
“Jane had an outstanding Olympics and was a major contributor to the management performance which Juan Samaranch rated as ‘the best ever’. After the Olympics, she was a recipient of the Australian Sports medal awarded by the Commonwealth Government. She has also received NSW Government Community Services Award.
“Here at Sydney University, as well as having a Blue for rowing, Jane has a Gold for services to the Sydney University Women’s Sports Association. She is also an honorary member of Sydney University Sport.”
And, as the citation concluded, the Women’s Rowing Club recently named one of their newest boats “Jane Spring”.