GOLD: Former ironwoman Hayley Bateup shares stories of life, love and being a Gladiator.
GOLD: Former ironwoman Hayley Bateup shares stories of life, love and being a Gladiator. Geoff Potter/n25436g

PODCAST: Former ironwoman rides life's wild wave

When former Coolangatta Gold winner and Ironwoman Hayley Bateup first started competing she didn't even tell her parents. She excelled in the water and then as Gladiator, Nitro, on the hit TV series. Now as a passionate firefighter, Hayley's fitness and career have always been a simple, straight-forward focus. Sadly, it hasn't been the same for her personal life. As a gay woman, Hayley shares what it was like for her and her partner as they rode the emotional wave while Australia voted on their future.

Matt Collins:

When did you first get into surf lifesaving?

Hayley Bateup:

I made the professional Ironwoman series when I was 16, I knew then that I had the potential to do well in this sport. I had the passion, the drive and the commitment to the training.

MC:

When you were 16, we are talking mid-90s, was it financially viable for you to compete in the sport full-time?

HB:

I didn't do it full-time, I was still at school at that stage. These days, when you make it into the professional series they pay for you to travel around. But at that point my parents had to pay for me to travel around. Whatever prize money I made they let me keep that and then I saved it. I was lucky to have parents that backed me.

MC:

Were they encouraging or would you say they were a bit more casual about you doing this?

HB:

They were completely casual. Mum and Dad didn't even know I was doing the trial when I first started. I went to some carnival and I let them know I had won the trial.

MC:

Why didn't you tell them?

HB:

Because it was just a trial, I just did it as training.

MC:

You would know better than anyone, Australia loves their sporting celebrities. It doesn't happen in all countries, but in Australia we really put our sports stars up on a pedestal. Was that overwhelming for you?

HB:

No, because it was something that I strived to be. Growing up, I looked up to Rene Corbett and Karla Gilbert doing so well. I lived and breathed that. Having that meant I was successful.

MC:

Do you still get it now?

HB:

Yeah, I remember once a police officer came up and asked me for my autograph. I thought I was going to get in trouble.

MC:

You went on to star in the television show, Gladiators. You were Nitro. Tell us about that journey.

HB:

Yeah, that was 2008, I got the call up. To me, that was awesome. It was a bit hard mentally at the time to remove myself from being in the water. So, while the Gladiators were sleeping I would drive off to the swimming pool and do a swim session.

MC:

I am interested in your take on the same sex marriage topic that was decided at the end of 2017. As a gay woman, what were your thoughts on that event?

HB:

It was a double-edged sword. Yes, it was something that needed to happen. Having the right to get married is important. But one thing I did find hard during that period was as soon as you bring up that topic it gives people the right to have an opinion about it. So now that has happened people aren't really even worried about it.