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SAS Australia’s Jessica Peris admits she struggled living in her Olympian mum’s shadow

''It was very challenging growing up as my mother’s daughter.''

By Woman's Day team
Despite stepping into the spotlight this week on Seven's SAS Australia, Jessica Peris, daughter of Olympic legend Nova Peris, has struggled to find her own path in life.
"It was very challenging growing up as my mother's daughter," athlete Jess, 31, tells Woman's Day.
"With everything that she had achieved in her life, which was so exceptional, it kind of made it quite hard for me to achieve something because you're always compared to her accomplishments."
Nova, 50, was the first Indigenous Australian to win a gold medal when she competed as part of the Australian women's hockey team at the 1996 Olympic Games.
It wasn't until Jess became an adult that she thought about entering athletics professionally. Instagram
In 1997, she switched from sports to sprinting and went on to compete at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
But with these accolades comes sacrifice, and watching her mother navigate through the lows of her career made Jess think twice about following in her footsteps.
"A lot of people only saw the end result, her accomplishments, but I saw the good, the bad and the ugly," she says.
"I didn't want to endure the things that she had to go through. It definitely wasn't easy.
"There was so much pressure, and I saw things that my mum put up with in regards to being racially discriminated, so there was a lot of fears as a kid wanting to pursue the same life that my mum did."
Nova, 50, was the first Indigenous Australian to win a gold medal when she competed as part of the Australian women's hockey team at the 1996 Olympic Games. Getty
It wasn't until Jess became an adult that she thought about entering athletics professionally.
But those dreams came to a grinding halt when she returned a positive test result to prohibited substances during a training session in 2017.
Jess was banned from the track for four years and forced to withdraw from the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where she was tipped to be a shining star.
"I was completely broken and lost," she admits.
"I kept pushing things to the side, and putting on a brave face but ultimately I just couldn't handle it any more."
Jess reveals the media frenzy that followed, due to her carrying her mother's name, became
too much and resulted in her being rushed to hospital after overdosing on sleeping pills in 2019.
But two years later, Jess is back and ready to face her fears – and past traumas – on the new season of SAS Australia.
"It wasn't just about the physical challenge but more about the mental challenge.
Jess says she's found happiness working at a non-for-profit helping Indigenous communities. Instagram
"It was an opportunity to stop suppressing my emotions that I have had over the years."
It has also reignited Jess' flame for sprinting again.
"I'm back doing some track sessions. That's been a huge leap, because it was a place that brought me so much anxiety.
"But I'm finally comfortable enough to be in that place again and train. I'm still unsure whether I want to return to athletics.
"The emotional trauma that I've experienced over the last couple of years makes me a little hesitant, but I believe that after my time on SAS, anything is possible.
Jess lives in Darwin with her partner Nathan and 12-year-old son Isaac. Instagram
"It's taken some time but I'm finally at a really great place, both mentally and physically.
"I've finally found happiness and my mum couldn't be more proud."
Right now, Jess, who lives in Darwin with her partner Nathan and 12-year-old son Isaac, says she's found happiness working at a non-for-profit helping Indigenous communities and is content on watching her son from the sidelines as he begins his journey into sport.
"He's extremely talented and has so much potential but I guess with me and my experiences with growing up, I just constantly remind him no matter what path he chooses to take in life, I'll love him unconditionally."
SAS Australia premieres Monday, 7.30pm, and continues Tuesday and Wednesday on Seven

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