Nadine began swimming when she was seven years old and by the time she was eight, she knew she wanted to be an Olympian. She overcame Chronic Fatigue Syndrome at the age of 15, only to have her dream of an Olympic berth in Barcelona shattered by a broken neck. Nadine fought back to achieve her goal, swimming at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games in the 200m Breaststroke where she came 6th in the final in a personal best time. She went on to captain the Australian Swimming Team at the 1998 Commonwealth Games and 1999 Pan Pacific Championships.
On retiring from competitive swimming, Nadine had to completely re-define her life. She struggled with depression for five years while studying for dual teaching qualifications (Primary and Secondary English) and working in PR & Marketing. In 2004 she began teaching English at high school and it was then that she began seriously shaping the memoir she had started in 1999 as part of her university degree.
Since Nadine’s story captured the attention of the media in 1996 she has enjoyed success as a motivational speaker on both the corporate and schools circuits. She says that one of her greatest joys is “connecting with an audience and feeling that my experiences, in some small way, might help inspire them.”
Nadine lives in Newcastle, NSW with her husband and one-year-old son. She spends her days cleaning up after her little boy and trying to find time to work on her next writing projects: a historical novel based on the lives of her grandparents (French/Jewish and German) and a picture book that uses the "Humpty Dumpty" nursery rhyme as a basis for an exploration of bullying. She has plans for four more novels beyond this.
“You can push me out the window; I’ll just get back up”
– “Can’t Keep Me Down”, Pink
Sunsets over the sea are bad luck. They are so beautiful – rainbow-coloured sparks jump off the water and dive into your eyes, imprinting the image so brightly that you cannot forget the moment. But all those little sunset sparkles started off sunsets all over my life, and before I knew it, those flying embers had turned to raging fires that burned everything in my world to dust.
In April 1989, at the Perth National Age Championships, holding Sean’s hand as we walked along the powdery white Scarborough Beach sand, watching the sun turn the ocean to gold, everything began to burn. We kissed – real kisses like in the movies. I was a goddess at the top of the world; a teenage goddess oblivious to the spot fires brewing.
The first one started with Sean. He kissed me, then dumped me. Burn! He liked Megan more than me again and I wondered if it had anything to do with my kissing. Was it possible that she was better at that too? I was getting to the point where I liked her more than me as well. Actually, I liked everything about her life more than mine, especially on the last night of Nationals, when she got to go to the swimmers’ disco. It was at Scarborough surf-club and my parents wouldn’t let me go and celebrate with every other age-group swimmer in the country… but Megan could… and Sean could… and Jess could…
I got to stay back and find my own fun at the crappy hotel where all the Ryde Swimming Club families had spent the last week eating, sleeping, relaxing between race days. Lucky me. The hotel was like an echo chamber with a small rockery, a wading pool and miniature waterslide in the middle of a courtyard surrounded by three floors of rooms. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t go to the disco, but all the cool people went, and I wanted to be with them.
Even most of the parents went to the pub for their version of a party after the week-long competition, but not mine. God, I was so embarrassed that they couldn’t even make an effort to mingle with the right people. Parents never understand how painful it is when yours are the parents who ‘don’t drink’ and are the ones who hang around to ‘keep an eye on the kids’.
So, I couldn’t even run amok at the hotel because I was scared of getting busted. Try being bad without being really bad – we sniffed pepper, I don’t know why exactly, but at the time it seemed wild and reckless, but all it achieved were fiery, weeping eyes, a nose in fits and a throat that scolded. Most of my evening was spent with my head upside-down under a tap to wash the pepper out and wishing Sean was there; then at least I’d have a chance of convincing him to kiss me again.
When the cool kids eventually did come back to the hotel with all the gossip, I tried not to look jealous and made out as though the few nerds who had stayed behind had had an awesome time. When the popular parents got back from their night out, they were suitably jolly and I thought that was so cool… at first, anyway. It wasn’t long before the second sunset spot fire ignited though.
The tipsy mums squealed a shrill echo that spun around and around the concrete walls, woke everyone up and brought an audience to the balconies for a real show. The drunken dads decided to go play in the courtyard splash-pool, and watching them dance around in the water, Megan’s dad included, was like watching a car accident. Somewhere in my mind I was embarrassed for Megan and that bad-luck sunset burned my desire to have her life. Un-drunk parents weren’t so bad after all.