Giann Rooney burst onto the international swimming scene in 1998 at the Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games. The 15-year-old won gold in the 100 metres backstroke. She went on to win freestyle gold at the 2001 World Championships but was then hampered by illness and injury. During 2002 and 2003 she struggled against the odds but still posted strong results. Along with team mates Petria Thomas, Leisel Jones and Jodie Henry, Giann stood proudly on the podium after they swam a record-breaking four-by-100-metre medley relay. She was awarded the Order of Australia at the tender age of 22.
Now Giann is counting the days till she gets the chance to stand on that podium again, wearing a gold medal, at the Commonwealth Games, which begin in Melbourne on March 15, 2006.
Giann was born in Queensland but now lives in Melbourne. Much of her time is spent at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre. Getaway's Jules Lund joined her there for a tour of the impressive centre, which caters for sport, recreation, rehabilitation, relaxation, health, wellbeing, fitness and education all under the one roof.
There is a 25-metre lap pool, 50-metre pool and diving facilities, wave pool and toddlers pool. There are basketball, badminton, table tennis halls and a squash centre, sports medicine centre, shop and café, and even a crèche.
Another of Giann's favourite places is Melbourne Zoo, one of the world's oldest with more than 350 species.
A particular favourite of hers is Karak, a red tailed black cockatoo. This endangered species is the mascot for the Commonwealth Games.
Giann also loves to visit Mek Kapah and Bongsu, the zoo's Asian elephants. When they aren't feeding on grasses, bark, fruit and flowers, they pass the time painting. They have totally different techniques. Mek Kapah has powerful brush strokes and is a quick painter, while Bongsu stands a long way back from his easel and despite his size, has a gentle touch. Their artworks fetch as much as $250 each.