reality tv

Far from being a hindrance, Shane Gould says her age helped her win Australian Survivor. 

Last night’s Australian Survivor finale made history for reasons we don’t usually expect from a reality TV program.

Not only was it the first time two female contestants were the final survivors standing, but winner, Olympic champion Shane Gould, made her mark as the oldest contestant to take out the title.

With five votes to four, the 61-year-old gold medal swimmer was crowned Sole Survivor – defeating criminal barrister Sharn Coombes and pocketing half a million dollars.

But she says the biggest win, perhaps, is that she may have paved the way for more women her age to “push back against social pressures to slip out of sight”.

“We need to keep our visibility and fight for our place in society. We’re just different. We have different levels of creativity and contribution – and you need that in society – not just the youthful energy,” Shane told Mamamia.

When asked if she thinks she’s inspired women her age, she said, “It wasn’t my intention.”

“But if that’s the outcome – fantastic. I’ve got three sisters in their fifties and they’re encouraged by my experience. I said look – you’ve all got abilities, you’ve just got to find a place to apply them. It might be totally out of your comfort zone,” she added. 

The Olympian and mother of four was one of 24 contestants who spent several gruelling – and hungry – weeks on the Fijian island of Savusavu, surviving on rice and beans and competing in physically and mentally demanding challenges each week. But the final week came down to just three: Sharn Coombes, Shane Gould and AFL star Brian Lake.

Far from being a hindrance, Shane believes it was her age that gave her an edge against the other contestants, and led to her win.

“People are probably more capable in their older years, because they use their life experiences. We have the ability to adapt, adjust and rebound,” she said, adding that she thinks “older women are underestimated”.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The wisdom, the experiences, the talents and the skills that older or middle-aged woman have… what a waste to shelve those people.”

Shane was well-liked by all her fellow contestants, but as Survivor fans can attest – there seemed to be one contestant with which she didn’t see eye-to-eye; second runner up Brian Lake, or “Grubby” as he was known throughout the season.

“I was conflicted in relating to him,” Shane said of the former Hawthorn and Western Bulldogs player.

“When he was his true genuine self, he was a really nice guy, but when he put on his ‘athlete guy’ game face it wasn’t very endearing to me.

“I just couldn’t cope with his grubby behaviour and his potty mouth… and there are other things that are a bit too complicated to say. He was a bit of a difficult person to live with, but a very interesting man… I was just uncomfortable with his way of living life.”

While some contestants from the season – Benji and Robbie, and Shonee and Fenella, in particular, have spoken about the genuine bond they formed during the experience – Shane offered some insight into what it’s like to truly establish friendships on Survivor.

“You know when you go on a camp, you form a relationship because you’re feeling a bit vulnerable. Like a holiday romance, these are ‘showmances’. I think people often form relationships that are like showmances and when you go back to the real world, it’s different. You haven’t got the same pressures.

“I think time will tell if relationships – like the “Shenella” relationship (Shonee and Fenella) – will continue.”

So what happened behind the cameras, that we didn’t see on television?

According to Shane – one contestant’s portrayal may have been deceiving.

“There was a lot more to Steve than was portrayed,” she said of the Commando.

“He didn’t appear to be saying much, but he was actually doing a lot more talking that they didn’t catch on the camera. He seemed to be a little bit under the radar, but he was working the game and the relationships more than was portrayed. He had more influence than was shown.”

The Sole Survivor says she plans to spend her $500,000 prize money on building a sustainable cottage, and furthering her research into the benefits of swimming to put towards a book and documentary.

00:00 / ???