For ACU Commerce student and swimming superstar Mack Horton, 2016 surely must be the most exciting and demanding year.
The 20-year-old emerged as one of the biggest success stories of the Rio Olympics, winning gold in the 400m freestyle and taking a bold, public stance against drug use in the sport.
Just last week Mack received the Swimmer’s Swimmer award, voted by his team mates, at Swimming Australia’s annual Gala Dinner in Brisbane.
Recently he appeared as a keynote speaker at the Australian Association of Graduate Employers Conference in Melbourne, and took questions from CEO Ben Reeves and the 300 plus audience of professionals from graduate recruitment, human resources, university careers services and service providers.
Caroline Ryan from the ACU Career Development Service, Office of Student Success, was on hand to hear him speak.
“Mack really is a role model of employability for next generation talent. If his attitude to hard work and persistence in achieving results are anything to go by, this ACU student is destined for a great future career,” she said.
Clearly determined, one of Mack’s personal mantras is ‘Everything happens for a reason, so when things don't go well it will still always work out’.
“I was pretty disappointed to miss out on selection for the 2012 Olympic swim team and the Worlds team that year, but when I look back now I realise I would have been out of my depth,” he says.
He also admitted that he has faced failure during study, and acknowledged the importance of continuing to overcome challenges to achieve goals.
"You just have to keep working at it and accept these things as setbacks rather than failures so you can get back on track.”
He credits his parents’ guidance for his pragmatic attitude to success, social media interest and taking on challenges. Mack speaks about the importance of honesty, saying he has no regrets for starting a conversation on clean sport during the recent Olympics, which drew both widespread support and fierce social media backlash.
When asked about handling this media scrutiny and rivalry from competitors, Mack says, ‘No one can take us too seriously if we don't take ourselves too seriously. That's the Australian culture ... to be a bit of a larrikin.’
Mack is currently studying Principles of Finance and Marketing as part of his Bachelor of Commerce, and has already gained some great insights into funding and investment in elite sports from his involvement in swimming and his Olympics experience at Rio.
ACU’s Elite Athlete and Performer Program (EAPP) offers a flexible study regime and support with managing exams and timetables, for students juggling training, competition and academic commitments.
In focusing on goals and remaining motivated, he looks at the whole Olympic experience, and plans to improve on his success.
With the flexibility of the EAPP Mack is taking time to complete his studies, and is realistic about entering the business world. When he graduates he plans to gain generalist experience to increase his exposure to management practices.