Of all the touching tributes to Jaimi Kenny in the wake of her tragic death, one of the most poignant came from her mother’s biggest swimming rival whose daughter also died too young.
Lisa Curry and Tracey Wickham were Australia’s golden girls of the pool during the 1980s, winning more than 20 international swimming gold medals between them.
But while celebrated by the nation and cheered on in unison in the pool, the pair were far from friends.
Famously in the lead up to the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, Lisa belittled her rival by slow clapping her as she walked out on to the pool deck.
Yet when Lisa and her fellow sporting champion ex-husband Grant Kenny released a statement about Jaimi’s death at just 33, Wickham was among the first to pay tribute.
Having lost her own daughter Hannah to cancer at just 19 in 2007, Wickham told her grieving one-time swimming rival: ‘I can’t believe we both have lost our beloved daughters’.
Olympic swimmer Lisa (right) and her Ironman ex-husband Grant Kenny released a statement on Monday informing the public about the death of their eldest daughter Jaimi (left) at age 33
Lisa’s former swimming rival Tracey Wickham has paid an emotional tribute in the wake of her daughter Jaimi’s death on Monday. Wickham lost her own daughter Hannah at age 19 to cancer in 2007 (She is pictured posing next to a photo of her daughter at the launch of the Hannah’s Chance Foundation in 2008)
Jaimi Kenny (left), the daughter of Lisa Curry, and Hannah Ciobo (right), the daughter of fellow Australian swimming star Tracey Wickham, both passed away after long battles with illness
Wickham told her grieving one-time swimming rival: ‘I can’t believe we both have lost our beloved daughters’
‘Lisa, my heart breaks for you and your family,’ Wickham posted on Lisa’s Instagram.
‘It’s a tragic time when losing a child. I can’t believe we both have lost our beloved daughters.
‘God bless you and hoping everyone holds you tight. Big hugs… much love. Tracey.’
Hannah Ciobo was just a teenager when she was diagnosed with synovial cancer in 2004 and bravely battled the rare disease for three years.
Just hours before her death she married ‘soulmate’ Tom O’Driscoll from her hospital bed.
The pair had met in hospital where he too was fighting cancer.
At Hannah’s funeral her mother – the former world record holder in the 400m, 800m and 1500m swimming events – described her daughter as her ‘rock’.
‘When I first laid eyes on my newborn baby girl, the love for Hannah was overwhelming,’ Wickham said.
‘A full head of dark, curly hair – an absolute stunner from day one.
‘She was my teacher and she was my rock.
‘She knew how to light up the room, she only had to smile to do that.’
Wickham previously told how when she was 19 – the same age her daughter died at – she and Curry were involved in a poolside spat.
Wickham (left) and Curry (centre) show off their medals after the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, where both were Australia’s golden girls of the pool
Wickham is pictured with her daughter Hannah (right) and son Daniel (left) in 2001 after a thief broke into their family home and stole three of her international gold medals
A shattered Wickham is helped out of the funeral service for her daughter Hannah in 2007. Just hours before her death Hannah had married her ‘soulmate’ Tom O’Driscoll, who she met while he was also undergoing treatment for cancer
Wickham (left) held the world records in the 400m, 800m and 1500m swimming events
At the Queensland state titles ahead of the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, she took on Curry at her opponent’s pet distance having rested from all other events.
‘Lisa says: “Oh we’ve decided to swim have we?”,’ Wickham recalled to The Brisbane Times, telling how Lisa gave her a slow clap as she walked up the starting block.
‘I was so angry.
‘It was like Steve Moneghetti racing Michael Johnson over 100m but I thought I have to win this to prove a point.’
And win she did, just edging ahead of her bitter rival to win by less than a stroke.
Jaimi Kenny passed away at Sunshine Coast University Hospital on Monday morning surrounded by her family, including both her Olympian mother and Ironman father.
For years she had been supported by her parents and siblings through many years of treatment at private clinic End ED, on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.
Shattered staff at the clinic said they could not discuss Jaimi’s struggle, but told how she became part of the ‘family’ over the years.
Despite her struggles with weight, friends of Jaimi told how she always brought ‘light and laughter’ to the lives of those she around her.
Jaimi Kenny sits on her mother’s shoulders as she returns from the Auckland Commonwealth Games in 1990 with a gold medal around her neck
Jaimi had privately battled an eating disorder for many years and was supported through her struggles by her family (Pictured L to R: Jaimi, newlyweds Ryan Gruell and Morgan Kenny, Grant Kenny, Lisa Curry and Jett Kenny)
Jett Kenny (left) shared an emotional tribute to his sister (right) on Instagram, admitting he may ‘not have always been the best brother’ but that they ‘loved one another unconditionally’
‘Bright, caring and loving soul’: Lisa spoke of her ‘unbearable’ pain in a gut-wrenching post on Tuesday (above). Her post was interspersed with pink floral emojis – an ode to Jaimi’s ‘love of flowers’
Lisa described her family’s pain at losing her ‘beautiful daughter’ as ‘unbearable’.
‘Our hearts are completely broken. Our beautiful daughter Jaimi has lost her battle with a long-term illness and passed away peacefully in hospital yesterday morning with her loving family by her side,’ Lisa wrote.
‘So loved. So beautiful. So kind to everyone… So painful. I can barely breathe.
‘Jaimi will forever be remembered as a caring, bright and loving soul who always put others before herself. Her love of flowers, cooking, art, decorating, photography, babies, the beach, and helping others will always be remembered.
‘Our hearts are broken and the pain is unbearable but we cherish every wonderful moment we got to share with our treasured and so loved first child.’
Lisa’s ex-husband Grant broke the news of their daughter’s death on Monday with a public statement.
Jaimi was the couple’s eldest child, and a sibling to sister Morgan and son Jett.
Lisa and Grant married in 1986 and were one of Australia’s most famous couples with both enjoying individual sporting success on the world stage.
But after their separation in 2019, Grant has since welcomed a fourth child with radio presenter Fifi Box, while Lisa married Elvis impersonator Mark Tabone in 2018.
Jaimi continued a close friendship with Fifi even after she separated from her father.
Co-parents: Lisa and Grant separated in 2009 after 23 years of marriage. They are pictured with Jaimi on the Sunshine Coast on April 3, 2008
Her model brother Jett paid tribute to his sister on Tuesday, admitting that while he ‘may not have been the best brother’ they ‘loved one another unconditionally’.
‘I may not have been the best brother to you all the time, I know you thought you weren’t being the big sister I needed all the time, but I do know we loved one another unconditionally all the time,’ he wrote.
‘I will love you forever. Rest In Peace my beautiful big sister, the world lost one of its treasures yesterday but heaven gained one. You will be dearly missed by all whose lives you touched.’
Jaimi had just turned 33 in June, with her mother taking to social media at the time to wish her a happy birthday.
‘Our first born. Really… where have all those years gone! Have a lovely day bubba. We all love you so much,’ Lisa wrote.