Two of our greatest sportspeople – Curtis McGrath and Ash Barty – hit the road in their home state for a new campaign with Jaguar, writes Jessica Parry.
Para-canoeist Curtis McGrath and French Open champion Ash Barty are the best of the best – and so it’s only natural that they expect nothing less from the vehicles they drive. Both are ambassadors for Jaguar, Barty driving the F-Pace and Curtis a modified F-Pace.
In Jaguar’s latest campaign, these exceptional, yet down-to-earth sportspeople, cleared their schedules for a day to film in their respective hometowns, the Gold Coast and Brisbane.
Day One – The early bird…
It’s a 6am call-time at the Australian Institute of Sport’s Canoe Unit on Queensland’s Gold Coast, the water where champion Curtis McGrath will later train on an inky mass; our only company the fitness fanatics here for a pre-dawn training run. The crew on this video and stills campaign is a seasoned one, yet the timeline is tight.
“Car shoots are particularly difficult because of the movement, so crafting the light is tricky and time consuming. It’s always a race against time,” says Liza Goodall, executive producer from Nine’s Powered Studios.
“Logistics around getting the shot are enormous, including weather, rigs, crew, permissions and location all having to come together like a perfect storm.
“That being said, it’s a challenge that makes filmmakers very excited and gives them the opportunity to have that sought-after film adventure which culminates in something special.”
Throughout a long day, Curtis is the consummate professional. It’s hardly surprising given the grit and determination he’s shown since losing his legs during combat operations in Afghanistan in 2012.
He’s currently training 11 months of the year for next year’s Tokyo Olympics, where he’ll compete in both outrigger canoe and kayak. Curtis is the man to beat, unconquered in both boats at major events since 2016.
Whether being asked to glide through the water (repeatedly), pose on a slipway and on the pontoon, his kayak aloft, he just smiles and gets on with it – even when we unfortunately lose a photographer’s drone to an impossibly tall pine tree across the river.
“I definitely wouldn’t change anything,” says the man who wears a metal wristband with the names of nine Australian and New Zealand combat engineers killed in Afghanistan. “I’ve had so many benefits from this. I’ve learnt so much about myself and the world. It’s been a blessing in disguise.”
With Jaguar Land Rover the major sponsor of the Invictus Games – Prince Harry’s multi-sport creation to inspire and celebrate injured veterans – and Curtis installed as ambassador for the 2018 event in Sydney, the relationship seemed almost predestined.
Curtis savours driving a modified F-PACE First Edition SUV, controlling acceleration and braking with the touch of a finger.
“It’s so easy to drive and I can use the roof racks to carry kayaks to training or competition,” he says.
“And it’s great that Jaguar are raising awareness of disability sports through their involvement in the Invictus Games.”
Day 2… On the ground with a local hero
The blue neon glow of the Pat Rafter Arena at the Queensland Tennis Centre lights up the dawn in suburban Brisbane, as French Open champion and current world number one tennis player Ash Barty pulls into the carpark in her Jaguar F-Pace.
It’s not long since her fourth-round Wimbledon loss, where she won hearts around the world with her comment, “the sun’s still going to come up tomorrow”.
She’s in her hometown and it’s clear the locals – everyone from the barista at the in-house café – to the social player who wanders over inquisitively – admires her.
“She’s wonderful, isn’t she,” the passerby says. “We’re so proud of her.”
At 23, Barty is finding the balance between worldwide fame and her down-to-earth disposition.
“I don’t think I could believe it when I won the French [Open]. I was happy, excited, proud and overwhelmed. The number one ranking was incredible too, especially as my mum and dad and my childhood coach Jim Joyce were there to help me celebrate.”
“The journey is what I’m enjoying the most though and I’m so happy that my team and I have been able to put ourselves in these positions.”
Barty refers to “us” instead of “I”, always. The “us” includes her coaching and support team and her close-knit family – parents Josie and Robert, sisters Sara and Ali, boyfriend Garry Kissick and a doted-upon niece and nephew.
When asked to nominate someone she considers fearless both on and off the court, she says: “On court it would have to be Simona Halep [because] I admire the way she goes about things and thought she did a fantastic job in the Wimbledon final playing Serena. Off court, my sister Sara. She is raising two small children, working and studying. I don’t know how she does it!”
After her gracious Wimbledon loss, Barty was called, “the hero that Australian tennis needs”.
In response, she says: “If I can have a positive effect on one person’s life, be it a young boy or girl, that would be incredible. For me, it’s about trying to share the lessons I have learned from a young age and going about things the right way, the way my mum and dad taught me.”
As the shoot wraps, the Queensland sun now well and truly out, Barty is, typically, looking on the bright side.
“We have the Fed Cup final against France in November which I’m so excited about; a Fed Cup win would be the best way to finish 2019! After that I will have a quick holiday before starting preparations for the Aussie summer.”
“Whenever I get to come home one of my favourite things to do is go for a drive in my car (a small thing that I miss when I am away). For me being in my car is a sign that I am home which makes me happy.
“It takes me to training, for drives with my niece and nephew and my puppies and on road trips around beautiful Queensland. I couldn’t do without my car.”
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