Survivor

Shane Gould wins Australian Survivor 2018: "It hasn't sunk in yet"

'I wouldn’t have done it without Sharn'

By Tina Burke

Shane Gould has been crowned the winner of Australian Survivor: Champions vs Contenders.

The Olympic swimmer was named the Sole Survivor after 50 days on the Fijian island of Savusavu, beating out her friend Sharn Coombes five votes to four in the final tribal council.

With $500,000 in her pocket, and the prestigious title of Sole Survivor to her name, Shane is feeling "astonished."

We caught up with the winner to find out more about her time on the show, her favourite part of the game, and her plans for the prize money.

TV WEEK: Congratulations Shane! How does it feel to be the sole Survivor?

Shane: I'm just overwhelmed you know! I don't think I expected it, so I'm just astonished really. There's just a million memories from playing the game, and all those people I worked with, all of those emotions come through and I just thought 'do I deserve it?' Well, does anyone deserve it? All these things go through your head, but people have given me this and decided to award me the title so I'll go with it [laughs]. I'll just revel in the joy of it.

But I've got Sharn to thank. We worked together, and I wouldn't have done it without Sharn and she just played a fabulous game. It was so close! I think both of us made big moves, both of us made strategic decisions to keep ourselves in the game. I certainly don't place myself above her because I admire her, she was my ally.

Shane and Sharn in the *Australian Survivor* finale.
Shane and Sharn in the Australian Survivor finale.

Was it great to be able to make it to that final part of the game with someone you respected and enjoyed spending time with?

Yeah! We, probably after the merge, we sort of made a bit of a temporary pact to help each other get to the end. And we tried to keep it a little bit secret so we weren't a 'power couple.' So, when we were down to the last three I said to Sharn 'look if you want to change your mind and take Brian with you to the final tribal council you can do that. I want to absolve you of any sort of promise we made in different circumstances.' I was hoping to heaven that she didn't [laughs] but I wanted to do that to free her from any obligations, and just be an honest sort of competitor. So she had to make that decision, and she decided to take me and not Brian. So, in winning, I didn't do it on my own. But I did play very much a social game and a cooperative game with the tribe!

You definitely played a good social game! One of my favourite things has been watching your interviews to camera when you're being sneaky…

Yeah someone dubbed me the silent assassin and I thought 'oh god!' I wanted to be the hero! The hero princess! But you can't do that on Survivor.

Shane was labelled the 'smiling assassin.'
Shane was labelled the 'smiling assassin.'

You've mentioned before that some of the other contestants were being somewhat disrespectful to you. Does it feel good to sort of prove the naysayers wrong and show that you had what it takes to win Survivor?

Well, no, because I don't act like that. I think it's really just a life lesson that you can't dismiss older people and people who are different to you. Yes, I'm weaker and less physically strong than some of the other people who carried the tribe through those difficult physical challenges. I'm really appreciative of that, but I think that Survivor is really like a microcosm of life and sometimes the people we really need most are the people we wouldn't think of. We need the teachers, we need the carers, we need elder people.

I think because I am the oldest person that's won Survivor, I think my message is don't discard older people. Older people have got life experiences and wisdom that needs to be shared and recycled back into society and into the younger generation. I was underestimated, perhaps because of my age and lesser physical capacity, but it takes a lot more than physical strength to win Survivor obviously.

But in saying that, you certainly proved yourself to be useful and successful in some of the physical challenges. Even more useful than some of the other contestants…

Yes, I wasn't a slouch! We'd come out to see if the challenge was by the water, I'd get excited. When it was the individual challenges, like the pole challenge, if I knew there were people more capable than me I didn't expend the energy. Some people thought I was a coward, but I thought I shouldn't waste my energy when there are ten or eleven other people who can stay on that pole much longer than me! I did give the challenges my all when it was required, especially when it was for the team. I did prefer the skill-based games.

I didn't want to get hurt, I did say that to Mat one day. I was scared, because I can't rely on my knees, you know there were just things I didn't want to do because I didn't want to get hurt. I wasn't the weakest one, I wasn't the strongest one, but I was a reliable member of the tribe. But when it came to the strategy I was quite good at that, which I didn't think I would be, but I had those outwitting and outplaying abilities.

You definitely played a good game! I mean, you're the Sole Survivor! In terms of life experiences is this up there on the list? How does it compare to winning at the Olympics, can they even be compared?

I don't think you can compare them, because the Olympics was about my skills that had been developed and honed through competition, practice and training. It's a totally different set of rules and structure around that competition. But Survivor is a whole different game! But the feeling, that exaltation, is certainly equal. The title of Sole Survivor was hard won, and I've been working on it by studying the game, and working on my fitness, and my mental attitude, and I've been working hard for it. It wasn't just handed to me!

Not at all! A lot of hard work went in to the win, and has it sunk in yet?

No it really hasn't sunk in yet! I think it will tonight. I've got a few friends here in Melbourne who are coming around with a bottle of champagne. My kids, I've got three kids around the world, who didn't know the results. They didn't want to know until they watched the show!

So have the kids and the grandkids been loving watching you on the show?

They have, they've been fantastic. And my grandchildren too, my five-year-old grandson Archie and my 11-year-old granddaughter Ariana, they've especially been in to it. They say 'Grandma, you've got to get rid of Benji' and I say 'just wait.'

They must be so proud of you! I guess the other thing that must be sinking in is that you've won half a million dollars! What are your plans for the money?

Yeah that's sort of the bonus and yeah I just half to be careful and get some good advice and spend it wisely! I want it mostly to free me up to go and do good work in drowning prevention, and things with people who are scared of the water. So I can go and do projects that help people.

Congratulations to Shane!

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