In 2012, Amy Pejkovic was undergoing a gruelling training regime in order to compete for Australia in high jumping at the London Olympic Games. Except her body had other plans for her, with Amy having to put her Olympic dreams aside after being diagnosed with a brain tumour. But she fought back.
Thrilling friends, family and a whole bunch of media outlets – last year Amy announced she was determined for a place on the Australian team once more, this time for the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. But again, her body had other plans for her – with an injury to Amy’s knee ending any hope of competing. But she’s still not giving up…
Here, we chat to the high-jumper and social media influencer about the emotional and physical fall-out from the injury, taking on new ambassador roles with brands such as Kleresca, plus a look at what she’s hoping the future holds.
This year hasn’t kicked off with the best news for you. Can you talk me through your early setback?
About a year ago I started getting knee pain on my left knee, which is the leg I jump off. We originally thought it was just patella tendonitis, so I was getting all the treatment, rehab, physio – just everything – and it wasn’t getting better. So, in December, my coach told me to get an MRI just to make sure nothing else was going on. I got the results and found out that I have cracks in the cartilage of my knee, the cartilage has folded on itself, plus I have patella tendonitis. Triple whammy.
It’s not ideal considering I was hoping to make the Australian team for the Commonwealth Games. I was so set on making that team and was going full steam ahead with training, trying to give it everything I possibly could. Then, for my knee to blow-up, it was pretty disappointing – but that’s life. Sometimes you can’t avoid these things. It’s put me out for the season.
How long does it normally take to heal?
I’ve just started PIP which is platelet rich plasma. They extract your blood, put in a machine and spin it, and it separates the plasma from your red blood cells. They take the plasma and basically inject it back into your knee. It’s got a 50/50 chance of working. Basically, I’ll be getting these injections for the next three months, fortnightly. It will hopefully get me back on track so I can start training properly again.
At the moment, I don’t know what to do with myself! I can still do small, light sessions to keep my body ticking over – but then obviously I’m like: ‘I’m going to have to start studying more, or work more – find a new hobby…’
How hard is it to motivate yourself after something like this has happened?
It’s not the easiest process. I guess from what I’ve learnt is that it’s just a part of life. I find there’s no point in sitting there, thinking about what could have been. It’s just like, okay, this has happened. Accept it. Move forward. I think that’s how I stay motivated. In a way, it’s a new beginning – it’s like a fresh start. [After my knee gets better] I’ll start everything again with no injuries, a fresh mindset, knowing that I can take on the world now.
Maybe it’s good to have a little pause…
Yeah, sometimes it’s good to have that little rest – to rejuvenate and reset.
So you’re not giving up? It’s not the end of your high jump career?!
No, definitely not. I want to make 2020 Olympics. That’s the next goal.
It must be hard facing another set-back after everything you went through with your brain tumour… Does this still have an effect on you?
I try not to let it have an effect on me. Obviously in the back of my mind it always sort of pops up. I get lost for words when I try and talk about it. It was six years ago, so the fact I’m still here and still going – doing the things that I love, surrounded by the people that I love – I’ve got to count my lucky stars because I’ve been one of the lucky ones to get through it. There are so many that don’t.
Physically, I still have loss of balance. The right side of my body is slightly affected. But then mentally, it does pop into my mind all the time. What if it comes back? What if this happens again? It does still affect me mentally. It’s something you can’t really just push aside.
When you found out about your knee diagnosis, did it start giving you flashbacks to six years ago when you were also on track towards a major sporting event?
When I got the results, it did make me think – you’ve got to be kidding me! Obviously it’s nowhere near as extreme as the brain tumour, but it’s still another setback when I’ve been on track to making an Australian team. It’s extremely frustrating, but I was like – you know what, third time lucky. I’ll make Tokyo!
I have my moments, but you’ve always got to stay positive. It’s not going to get you anywhere in life if you’re dwelling on the bad things.
Given that you’re unable to train at the moment, are you embracing more the modelling and brand ambassadorship side of your life?
Definitely, but only brands that I feel connected with. I’ve recently been working with Kleresca on their acne treatment. I guess one reason I loved this treatment was because it’s not invasive. You don’t have to take anything orally, or have injections or anything like that. It’s quick and easy. They’re all about self-confidence and the slogan is ‘no more hiding’. It’s nice being able to go out during the day with no makeup on and feel good about myself, whereas I used to try and get the full coverage makeup and plaster it on my face to try and hide all the spots. Now, I just go out with a bit of sunscreen and off we go.
How did the collaboration with Kleresca come about?
I found out about Kleresca through posting about my acne on Instagram. I was approached to see if I wanted to try the Kleresca Acne Treatment. All up I did twelve treatments, twice a week for six weeks. Basically, they put this special gel all over your face and you lie on the bed under the lamp for nine minutes. Then off you go with your day with no down time.
And you’ve seen a big difference on your skin?
Yes. Probably from the third or fourth treatment, I started to see a difference. All the deep acne just disappeared. If anything, I still get a bit of superficial stuff. But no acne, no scarring – its helped a lot of the scarring. It’s amazing. It’s brought out my freckles too. I’ve only just started to love them.
As well as modelling, you’ve also started studying a Bachelor of Journalism. Is this something we’re going to see more of from you?
Well, I hope so. I’ve really only just started because I’ve transferred degrees, but I’ve always wanted to get into TV presenting. I’m still trying to work out what I want to do, but [maybe] Fox Sports or something sports-related because I am so passionate about that area.
Have you done some presenting already?
I’ve done TV interviews, but I’ve been the one talking to the mic – not the one holding it! But I’ve done a few TV presenting courses at uni, so it’s definitely something I want to pursue. Hopefully once I’ve wrapped up jumping and modelling, I’ll have a career in presenting.
So what’s the ultimate aim? What would be the greatest achievement you could hope for?
Obviously, making the Olympics is the absolute dream. But, I guess the ultimate goal is to just be content and happy with life and what I’ve achieved. And staying healthy. I just want to be able to make the most of what I have. It sounds so cliché, but you never know when your time is up. I think my ultimate goal is to achieve everything I want to achieve in life. It would be making the Olympics, working for brands that I love, starting a family – it would be all those sorts of things. A whole mix of things.
In 5 years’ time, where do you think we’ll see you?
Hopefully, I will have competed at the Olympics. And then a nice career in TV presenting. And hopefully married or engaged…
All images: Amy Pejkovic