Pallister continues coaching career with move eyeing Tokyo, Birmingham and beyond


Commonwealth Games gold medallist Janelle Pallister has an ambition to go to another Olympic Games, but next time as coach of her teenage daughter and Australian record holder Lani.

The Auckland 1990 Commonwealth Games swimming gold medallist, who competed as Janelle Elford, is one of 40 coaches across 35 sports who has just completed a unique 26-week online coaching development course run by the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and La Trobe University and will begin a new job working with one of Australia’s top swimming coaches in the new year.

The inaugural AIS Elevate e-Coach program was developed and conducted to overcome COVID-19 restrictions, working exclusively with pathway coaches who are mentoring emerging athletes. The course included the likes of Olympic gold medal canoeist Ken Wallace, who is also embarking on coaching after an athlete career that netted six world championship titles.

Julie McDonald (silver), Hayley Lewis (gold) and Janelle Elford (bronze) celebrate the Australian trifecta in the 400m freestyle at the Auckland 1990 Games. (CGA Archive / Getty Images)


A Seoul 1988 Olympic swimmer and winner of three medals at the Auckland 1990 Games, Pallister worked as a flight attendant after finishing her swimming career.

Her coaching career began by accident when she filled in as an instructor for her two toddlers at learn-to-swim classes.

Lani, 18, is now a world junior champion and the 800m and 1500m Australian short-course record holder in contention for her first Olympic team in Tokyo and the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Mum Janelle, will progress her coaching career in the new year by relocating from the Sunshine Coast to join Head Coach Michael Bohl at Griffith University – one of Australian swimming’s most successful squads, in a joint partnership between Swimming Australia, Griffith University and the Queensland Academy of Sport.

“I had no ambitions to be a coach, but from a tiny speck of sand it kept getting bigger and bigger,” Pallister said of her coaching ambitions fast tracked by the AIS program.

“It’s been evolving ever since and now I’ve been offered a job to work with Michael.

“I’ve developed myself to a certain level, but I need to expose myself to the next level and that’s a leap of faith. I’ve always said to my athletes ‘what do you lose by having a go?’. I need to take my own advice.”

“If I can develop myself and my athletes that we can both make Olympic teams, that’d be awesome.

“I do believe Lani will be an Olympian one day, whether that’s next year or in three years [in Paris 2024]. But she’s got to continue to love it and get the best out of herself. It would be an amazing story.”

Janelle credits the AIS coaching program for broadening her horizons as a coach and giving her the confidence to progress.

“All the coaching courses I’ve previously done have been with swimming coaches, which is great but sometimes you can put blinkers on,” Pallister said.

“But when you do a course like this that involves all sports and coaches from all around Australia, you share different experiences and coaching philosophies.

“It has sparked so many different ideas for me and I feel more confident in my coaching. In the past I may have pigeon-holed myself and not taken that opportunity to learn from other coaches, now my ears prick up when I hear coaches speak from different sports.”

The AIS has recently launched the National High Performance Coach Development Taskforce, aimed at making Australia the world leader in modern high performance coaching development before the end of the decade.

Addressing the under-representation of female coaches in sport is one of the aims.

“Coaching is a hard world, it’s a very male dominated field and I think it’s also an occupation where society pigeon-holes people. It is hard, I’m not going to lie, but if you’re true to your convictions and have your philosophies and produce results that speaks a thousand words.”


With thanks to Swimming Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport.



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