Australian Surfers Stephanie Gilmore and Tyler Wright are finalists in the below listed prestigious Australian Sports Performer of the Year Awards – If you feel inclined, register a vote for our girls who have done the sport and Australia proud over the past 12 months! – Details below –
The Age sports performer of the year awards
THESE are the finalists for the most prestigious sports awards in Australia. It’s up to you to decide the Sports Performer of the Year and the winner of five other exciting categories.
The winner will get $50,000 courtesy of Colonial First State, and you could win $5000 just for voting.
See www.theage.com.au/sport/sports-performer-awards where you can check out all the nominees and cast your votes.
The winners will be announced at a gala night at Crown casino in Melbourne on November 26. Apart from the Performer of the Year, there are five other award categories – for team, coach, international, disabled and young performer of the year.
The finalists have been chosen by experts from The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, Fairfax media online and radio.
You also get to vote in each of the categories, with the winners to be announced on the night.
NOTE: Judges considered all performances in the 12 months to October 31, 2008. Young performer aged 18 or under during that period.
Cast your vote at http://www.performerawards.com.au/
Check out all the finalists’ profiles at www.theage.com.au/sport/sports-performer-awards
PERFORMER OF THE YEAR
LANCE FRANKLIN AFL
What do you say about a man who has managed to become a bona fide superstar of the AFL in just his fourth season, aged 21? While his 73 goals in 2007 were a tantalising preview of the young West Australian’s freakish talents, 2008 left nobody in doubt as to his standing in the game. This yearFranklin became the first man since Tony Lockett in 1998 to kick 100 goals in the home-and-away season, and the first indigenous player to reach the milestone. He ended the season proper with 102 majors, and went on to bag 11 more in the finals series for a total of 113, which included a stunning eight-goal performance in the qualifying final against the Western Bulldogs. A Coleman Medal, club best and fairest and a premiership medallion confirmed to the football world that he had well and truly arrived.
STEPHANIE RICE SWIMMING
The Queenslander introduced her beaming smile and pool prowess to the Australian public as a talented teenager at the 2006 Commonwealth Games inMelbourne, where she won gold as an 18- year-old in the 200 metres and 400 metres individual medley. But that was really it until this year. She set world records in those two events at the selection trials in March in Sydney. In Beijing, Rice kickstarted the campaign with gold in the 400 metres IM in world-record time. Three days later she was at it again, winning the 200 metres IM fi nal, and again breaking the world record. The next day, Rice led off the 4 x 200 freestyle relay in a time equal to the national record, and then watched and cheered teammates Bronte Barratt, Kylie Palmer and Linda MacKenzie on to another gold and a time that would shatter the world record by almost six seconds. Her third gold of the Games would equal the achievements of Shane Gould (1972), Ian Thorpe (2000), Jodie Henry (2004) and Petria Thomas (2004).
KEN WALLACE KAYAK
Who would have thought the happy-go-lucky paddler who shocked his coach by wearing a sombrero in his fi rst race would become an Olympic gold medallist? Ken Wallace, known as “K1 Kenny”, not only managed a bronze medal in the K1 1000 metres but also gold over 500 metres. The 25-year-old bettered the records of Clint Robinson (who won gold in the K1 1000m on debut at the 1992 Games in Barcelona) and Nathan Baggaley (two silvers at Athens in 2004). In his gold medal-winning race he toughed it out in the fi nal 50 metres to win. “I knew I had to get a good start — it is such a tight race,” Wallace said. “I knew the whole field was going to finish within a second. But I knew it was going to be tough. I knew it was going to come down to those last 50 metres, and that if I get out fast or faster than what I normally do, it would be better.” Wallace was happy with his rapid ascension to the top in his first Olympics. “Now I am a gold and bronze medallist, I am ecstatic. I can’t wait until I get to London . . . a bit bigger, a bit stronger, a bit faster, hopefully.”
MATTHEW MITCHAM DIVING
Matthew Mitcham won the hearts of the nation with his spectacular fi nal dive to win gold in the 10-metre platform at Beijing. It was the highest-scoring dive in Olympic history and denied the Chinese a clean sweep of the medals. Mitcham cried and bounced around the pool deck after winning gold. “It’s going to take a while to sink in,” he said. “My cheeks hurt from smiling. My face hurts from the chlorine. My legs are sore from jumping up and down. I’m in pain and I’m tired. But I’m so happy.” It was Australia’s first men’s diving gold since Dick Eve in 1924. It had been a tumultuous journey to the top for the 20-year-old. He had retired in his teenage years after physical and emotional burnout, becoming a high-diver at the Royal Sydney Easter Show to make money. After a nine-month hiatus he returned to the sport. “When I was training every single day, twice a day, 11 sessions a week, 30 hours a week, before every single dive I said to myself, ‘I want to win an Olympic gold’. It was all worth it.”
STEVE HOOKER POLE VAULT
He has an Olympic gold medal and an Olympic record, but still Steve Hooker wants more. Hooker has his eye on the world record of 6.14 metres and his gold medal-winning performance in Beijing shows he has the nerve to take him to greater heights. To qualify in the preliminary round, Hooker cleared 5.65 metres on his fi nal attempt. In the final he made 5.80, 5.85 and the golden 5.90 — all on his third and final attempts. Before his successful gold medal attempt at 5.90, Hooker paused to enjoy the experience. “I just sat back and realised I was doing something that every kid dreams of,” he said. “I had my destiny in my own hands. To have done it is a dream come true.” Hooker, who has been perfecting his technique under the watchful eye of Alex Parnov, is determined to break Sergey Bubka’s world record before his career closes. “Sergey’s still the legend and I’m just a newbie. I’m going to try and do what I can to be as good as he was,” he said.
CRAIG ALEXANDER IRONMAN
Craig Alexander kept alive Australia’s fascination with the Hawaiian Ironman, winning the gruelling 3.8-kilometre swim, 180-kilometre bike ride and 42.2- kilometre run in the searing heat-radiated lava fi elds in October. Alexander, 35, had vowed to win the race since finishing second last year and was inspired by the 1994 victory of fellow Sutherland shire athlete Greg Welch when Alexander was an overweight university student. Over the years Alexander shed 21 kilograms and rose through the triathlon ranks, winning a silver medal in the world long distance championships two years ago, then finishing second at Hawaii behind Craig McCormack before this year’s cherished dream came true. Alexander was in the lead off the bike and said he was suffering terribly through the final 10 kilometres of the marathon run. But he held off Spanish competitor Eneko Llanos to win in eight hours, 17 minutes and 45 seconds.
EMMA SNOWSILL TRIATHLON
Emma Snowsill’s heart is much bigger than her tiny 48-kilogram frame. And she proved it with a stunning victory in the Beijing Olympic triathlon. Snowsill dominated the race, having donned a camouflage-green swimsuit in the initial swim leg, stuck within the main group of cyclists and then ran hard to take the lead from world No. 1 Vanessa Fernandes in the fi nal run leg. Snowsill, 27, had had the Olympic glory in her dreams but in 2002 her boyfriend Luke Harrop was killed while training on his bike. Inexplicably she wasn’t selected for the 2004 Athens Olympics, despite being the world champion of that year and she watched as her close friend, Luke’s sister Loretta Harrop, was overtaken in the final stages for the gold medal. Snowsill, who has three world championships under her belt, said she was “running scared” in the final stages of the Beijing event lest the same happen to her.
STEPHANIE GILMORE SURFING
Stephanie Gilmore became the first person to win the world title in her rookie year. It was at the season-ending Billabong Pro at Honolua Bay on the Hawaiian island of Maui, and she was locked in a three-way battle for the world crown with Peru’s Sofia Mulanovich and Brazilian Silvana Lima. Gilmore’s two title threats succumbed to the pressure as the then 19-year-old conjured the most dominant heat of the day to snatch the title. She couldn’t believe that she had written herself into the record books. “That’s amazing, I never even thought of that until now,” Gilmore said. “… To do it here in Maui, in waves that are barreling, and with all the family and friends here to share it with, that’s truly amazing. I’m absolutely over the moon _ and at a loss for words.” Gilmore grew up surfing Snapper Rocks in Coolangatta with men’s world champion Mick Fanning. “I’ve just had an amazing first year on tour,” she said. “Mick Fanning has been a real inspiration to me. I didn’t think it was going to happen. I didn’t believe it.”
SPORTS PERFORMER OF THE YEAR WITH A DISABILITY
Heath Francis was just seven years old when he lost his lower right arm in an accident on the family farm. The boy from ACT didn’t let this stop him becoming a top athlete, and in 1999 and 2000 Francis was named the Junior Male Paralympian of the Year. A recipient of the Order of Australia Medal, Francis took home three gold medals, a bronze medal and broke two world records at the Beijing Paralympic Games this year. His array of events include 100 metres, 200 metres, 400 metres and relays. His 2008 Paralympic results followed stellar performances in Sydney and Athens, where he won a total of three gold, three silver and two bronze medals. In 2006, he won the Men’s 200 metres EAD event at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
Fearnley was born with agenesis, which means his legs aren’t strong enough to hold his own weight. He is one of the greatest wheelchair track and road athletes in the world. While Fearnley dominates the marathon event he also holds Australian T54 records in 400 metres, 800 metres, 1500 metres, 5000 metres and 10,000 metres. In 2007, Fearnley won 10 international marathons from 11 starts, breaking six course records along the way. Fearnley has won four gold medals, two silver and one bronze at Paralympic Games in Athens, Sydney and Beijing. He went back-to-back in the marathon event, winning gold in Athens and Beijing. Fearnley is from NSW and was a finalist for the 2005 Young Australian of the Year and recipient of the 2006 Australian Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability.
Cowdrey was born with a congenital amputation to his lower left arm and was just five years old when he started swimming. Now 19, Cowdrey has already achieved Paralympic, world championship and Commonwealth Games glory, breaking more than 70 world records, his first when he was 13. At the Beijing Paralympic Games, the South Australian broke five world records, winning five gold medals as well as three silver. At Athens, Cowdrey won two gold, two silver and two bronze medals. His amazing achievements in the pool have earned him an array of accolades, including an Order of Australia Medal in 2006, 2008 Athens Paralympics team leader, Telstra Swimmer of the Year with a Disability 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007, Paralympian of the Year Award in 2004 and Junior Male Athlete of the Year in 2005.
An avid skier from the age of three, Michael Milton was nine years old when he lost his leg to bone cancer. Just five years later he represented Australiaat the 1988 Winter Paralympic Games in Austria. Milton was the first Australian to win a gold medal in a Winter Games — Paralympic or Olympic — in 1992 in Albertville. Since then, Milton has won 12 world championship medals and 10 medals at Paralympic Games. At the 2002 Paralympic Games inSalt Lake City, Milton became the first person in his amputee class to win all four alpine skiing events. In 2003, he turned to speed skiing and set a new world record of 193.16 kmh for a skier with a disability. Three years later Milton became the fastest Australian skier ever with a time of 213.65 kmh.Milton then turned to cycling. His dream to compete at the Beijing Paralympic Games was sidelined when he was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in July 2007. He has since made an amazing comeback from this serious illness, winning two gold medals at the 2008 Australian Track Cycling Championships just months after major surgery.
At just 19 years old Ryley Batt is known as the master of the Australian wheelchair rugby team. Born with a limb deficiency, Batt has no legs and also required surgery to separate his fi ngers. The boy from Port Macquarie played the sport for the fi rst time in 2002, representing Australia in Japan the following year. At the Paralympic Games in Athens he became the youngest wheelchair rugby Paralympian at just 15. He followed up in Beijing with a stellar performance, getting Australia into the finals where they lost to the US, taking home silver. In 2003, his fi rst year in the National Wheelchair Rugby League, he was recognised as the best 2.5-point player in Australia, Player of the Year and also Rookie of the Year. His Australian coach says he may be the most dominant player but he is also a great team guy. This year he was nominated for the Young Paralympian of the Year.
Enduring cerebral palsy from a car accident in 1983, Tim Sullivan first competed in athletics for Australia in 1998. Since the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games, where he won fi ve gold medals and set five world records, Sullivan has been the undisputed world No. 1 in his fi eld of athletics. Winning four gold in Athens, Sullivan achieved his 10th Paralympic gold medal at Beijing, making him Australia’s best Paralympian ever. The 33-year-old has dominated the 100 metres, 200 metres, 400 metres and relays in his spectacular career. Hailing from Chelsea Heights in Victoria, Sullivan was named Male Paralympian of the Year 2000, Paralympian of the Year 2004, and awarded the VIS Award of Excellence 2000 and VIS Athlete with a Disability 2004.
In January 2008, Kelly Wren won the women’s singles and women’s doubles in the Australian Tennis Classic. In July 2008, Wren flew to Poland and won gold in the women’s singles, mixed doubles and was runner-up in the women’s doubles in the International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability World Tennis Championships. A signifi cant “off-the-court” achievement this year is Wren’s completion of a mainstream tennis coaching course, becoming a qualifi ed development coach in tennis. She is also part of the International Sports Research Team with Special Olympics and has completed an athlete leadership program with Special Olympics.
All by Louisa Whitehead
CRISTIANO RONALDO SOCCER
It takes a special talent to climb to the top of the soccer world, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s form inspired Manchester United to the English Premier League and UEFA Champions League double and secured his reputation as the No. 1 player in the world. The Portuguese attacker scored an extraordinary 41 goals from 49 games, including the opening goal in the Champions League fi nal against Chelsea in Moscow. He won a host of individual awards along the way, including the Professional Footballers Association Player of the Year, the Football Writers Association Footballer of the Year, Barclays Golden Boot, European Golden Shoe and UEFA Club Footballer of the Year. He also scored eight goals in Portugal’s Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, although he couldn’t lead it to triumph in the fi nals as he scored one goal before it went out at the quarterfi nal stage.
MICHAEL PHELPS SWIMMING
It’s not because we are a nation of swimming watchers that we noticed the achievements of American Michael Phelps. The entire world looked on in awe as Phelps became the star of the Beijing Olympic Games. During nine days in China, Phelps did this: he competed in eight events — five individual, and three relays. He won every one of them, and in doing so surpassed the seven gold won by compatriot Mark Spitz in the pool in Munich in 1972. But just for good measure, Phelps broke the world record in seven of those eight events, and in the other, the 100 metres butterfl y, he managed to produce a personal best time. Not only was his eight-gold haul a record likely to never be beaten, but with those eight, plus the six gold he won in Athens four years earlier, he has 14 gold medals, a tally which makes Phelps the greatest Olympian in history. Not a bad nine days for the Baltimore Bullet.
RAFAEL NADAL TENNIS
Rafael Nadal had already driven so many forehands into Roger Federer’s crown that it was barely clinging to his head. In August, the Spaniard finally knocked it off, storming what had been Federer’s fiefdom for a record four-and-a-half years. How long he can keep his knicker- bockered tail on the throne is central to “Rafa versus Roger”, sport’s unmissable duel. Nadal won seven tournaments in 2008; Federer was his last victim in four of them. There was also Olympic gold in Beijing, but the moment came in the gloaming at Wimbledon in early July, when he triumphed 9-7 in the fifth set of a final to rival the Borg-McEnroe epic of ’81. Nadal has always revelled in Roland Garros dirt. To see grass stains on his shirt as he lifted the sport’s most famous trophy was to know that, for now, the baton has been wrenched from Federer’s hand. Peter Hanlon
USAIN BOLT ATHLETICS
You want Olympic gold medals? Try two individual and a relay. World records? Three individual world marks for the year, plus another in the relay. Impact? The transition from a gangly, super-talented kid to a powerful speed machine. All these things, and more, Usain Bolt was in 2008. He surprised the world with a world record in the 100 metres in May; then astounded it with his feats in the Bird’s Nest, winning the 100 in a world record 9.69, the 200 in a world record 19.30 seconds, breaking the “gunna-lastforever” record set by Michael Johnson, and running the bend in Jamaica’s world record 4 x 100 metres relay. Bolt became the fi rst man to do the Olympic sprint double in 24 years, the youngest to do it, and the fi rst to do it with two world records. When we weren’t talking about what he was doing in Beijing, we were talking about what he might do next. Len Johnson
ALASTAIR CLARKSON AFL When Alastair Clarkson was appointed coach of Hawthorn in 2004, the common refrain was “Alastair who?” The young coach won no favours from impatient media pundits in his fi rst two years with his draft-led rebuilding strategy that placed a premium on youth and seemingly no value on win-loss ratios. Clarkson earned his first distinction as a tactician of note in 2007 with his unconventional four-man forward set-up, thereafter dubbed “Buddy’s Box”. In 2008, “Clarkson’s Cluster” was the talk of the town, right up until grand fi nal day, when Clarkson and his men delivered the Hawks their first AFL premiership in 17 years. Nick Sheridan
NORMA PLUMMER NETBALL No nonsense and straight to the point, Norma Plummer’s direct style has driven the Australian netball team to the top of the world with a stunning victory against arch rival New Zealand at the 2007 World Championships last November. The victory over the Kiwis came just a year after losing the Melbourne Commonwealth Games fi nal to the same team. Plummer took over the Australian Diamonds in 2003 during a lull in their world supremacy, but has instilled strict performance-based team selections, a policy that has underpinned their recent global dominance. In October, Plummer notched up her 50th game as Australian coach.
ALEX PARNOV POLE VAULT Gold medallist Steve Hooker calls him the world’s greatest pole vault coach and a freak. The coach who guided the careers of world champion Dmitri Markov, former world record-holder Emma George and Olympic silver medallist Tatiana Grigorieva, overhauled Hooker’s technique to guide him to success in Beijing. Parnov’s at times zany training methods have in the past had Hooker questioning his ways. “He lives and breathes it every day. He’s always for how we can get better than everyone else. He has this unshakeable faith that it is going to work. And you develop that faith, too.” Parnov grew up in Moscow and was among the top vaulters in the 1980s. He made the world championships team in 1983. However, he was soon cut from the team to give a younger man a go. His name was Sergey Bubka, who still holds the world record of 6.14 metres. But Parnov’s misfortune was Australia’s blessing. Pole vaulter Paul Burgess thinks the coach, who arrived in Australia in 1996 and began training him in 1998, is “borderline genius and borderline crazy”. Ultimately Parnov’s results speak for themselves. Jessica Halloran
AURELIO VIDMAR SOCCER The circumstances of Aurelio Vidmar’s appointment weren’t exactly ideal. In the days after Adelaide’s humiliating 6-0 grand final battering at the hands of Melbourne Victory, the club’s board hastily formed a firing squad to execute coach John Kosmina and captain Ross Aloisi, leaving Vidmar — Kosmina’s assistant — to fill the breach. However, the legacy of that grand fi nal hammering saw the Reds qualify for the Asian Champions League, and it was there Vidmar shone. First he mapped out a path to win a difficult group, before showing true managerial acumen to guide his players into the final of the tournament, going far beyond the feats of other local coaches in the process. Sebastian Hassett
DES HASLER RUGBY LEAGUE Manly’s win in the National Rugby League grand fi nal was the culmination of a five-year plan painstakingly implemented since Des Hasler took over as head coach in 2004. Each year under Hasler the Sea Eagles have improved, making the qualifying fi nals in 2005, the semi-fi nals in 2006, the grand final in 2007 before fi nally claiming the premiership trophy this year with a record 40-0 demolition of the Melbourne Storm. It was a triumph planned in precise detail by Hasler, who was renowned for his dedication and work ethic as a player and he has carried that over to coaching. Highly regarded for his tactical ability and preparedness to embrace new scientific methods to training, Hasler managed to get the best out of his players on a consistent basis and ensured they peaked at exactly the right time.
TEAM PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
HAWTHORN FOOTBALL CLUB
It started the year as the precociously talented team to watch, but it ended it as AFL premiers. Starting the season with nine wins on the trot, the Hawks — who boasted the third-youngest list in the league — announced that perhaps they were taking season 2008 a little more seriously than many of the pundits who rated them as a good developing prospect. As finals approached Hawthorn emerged as the most likely challenger to the seemingly unbeatable Geelong. A thrilling 26-point victory in boilerroom conditions at the MCG showed, however, that this batch of young Hawks were more than just challengers.
CRAIG LOWNDES–JAMIE WHINCUP, TRIPLE EIGHT RACING
To win at the daunting Mount Panorama circuit three years in a row is the stuff of legend. But that is the feat achieved this year by Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup of Triple Eight Racing Team at Bathurst this year. Only the biggest names in Australian motor sport have taken the chequered flag in the endurance classic three years in succession. Peter Brock managed it twice, in 1978-80 and 1982-84, combining with Jim Richards on the fi rst three occasions and Larry Perkins for the subsequent triumphs. This year the Queensland-based duo dominated, leading for the bulk of the race, and had it not been for safety car interludes, the margin of their victory would have been even greater. They, their pit crew, engineers and Triple Eight squad members are worthy contenders for the team of the year title. Michael Lynch
When achievements in Australian football are measured, they tend to exclusively involve the exploits of the Socceroos or Australian players abroad. That was until this year, when Aurelio Vidmar’s Adelaide United surprised even itself in making it to the cusp of glory in the Asian Champions League. A series of captivating performances have demonstrated that Australian domestic clubs can compete against the world’s best, with the Reds’ 3-0 semi-final home win over Rivaldo’s Bunyodkor already etched as the most memorable moment in Australian club football. In a decade of landmarks for the sport in this country, should Adelaide go on to win the tournament, it will rightfully rank with the best of them.
WOMENS’S 4 X 200M FREESTYLE RELAY SWIMMING
THEY weren’t supposed to win. Maybe a medal if everything fell nicely into place, possibly a bronze or perhaps at best a silver memento to take back toAustralia. Certainly not gold. However, somebody in Beijing forgot to mention that to the four women in Australia’s 4 x 200 metres freestyle relay team. Despite the US being unbackable odds to win, out there in lucky lane seven Stephanie Rice, Bronte Barratt, Kylie Palmer and Linda MacKenzie cared little for what was “supposed” to happen and each produced stunning performances to not only become the first nation other than the US to win the event at Olympic level, but for good measure they sliced almost six seconds from the world record.
MANLY SEA EAGLES
After finishing runner-up to Melbourne in 2007, the Sea Eagles avenged their grand final defeat in record fashion with a 40-0 thrashing of the Storm in this year’s National Rugby League decider. It was the biggest win in grand final history and one that signalled not just the end of an era of Storm domination but the start of a new one dominated by Manly. After having just one player, full-back Brett Stewart, involved in this year’s state-of-origin series, the Sea Eagles dominated Australia’s World Cup squad, with six players gaining selection. Half-back and captain Matt Orford was the NRL’s player of the year. Brad Walter
YOUNG PERFORMER OF THE YEAR
BERNARD TOMIC TENNIS
Bernard Tomic is being touted as the shining light for Australian tennis. Born in Stuttgart, Germany, the right-hander from the Gold Coast has been playing since the age of seven. At just 15, Tomic was chosen for Australia’s 2008 Davis Cup team but narrowly missed selection to play. Tomic has enjoyed rare consistency during his junior career, winning three Orange Bowls in 2004, 2006 and 2007. This year Tomic won the Australian Open boys’ singles championships and reached the semi-finals of the boys’ singles at Wimbledon. He is currently placed third in the International Tennis Federation junior rankings.
EMILY SEEBOHM SWIMMING
Emily Seebohm rose to stardom at the Beijing Olympics this year. The Adelaide-born swimmer who now lives in Brisbane won gold at Beijing in the 4 x 100 medley relay in a world record. The 16-year-old also came ninth in the 100 metres backstroke. Seebohm started 2008 with a bang, breaking the Commonwealth record in 50 metres backstroke at the Brisbane Catholic Schoolgirls’ Championships in March. Sixteen days later she smashed the world record in the 50 metre backstroke semi-fi nal at the 2008 Australian Championships, with a time of 27.95 seconds. She then turned to the 100 metres backstroke event and became the fi rst Australian woman to break the one-minute barrier.
ELYSE PERRY CRICKET/SOCCER
Seventeen-year-old Elyse Perry is one of Australia’s brightest stars in both cricket and soccer. The Sydney-sider is the youngest Australian (male or female) to play international cricket. She was just 16 and eight months when she debuted for Australia in one-day cricket, and has since secured a regular spot in the team. Amazingly, just two weeks after her international cricket debut, Perry flew to Hong Kong to play for Australia’s soccer team, the Matildas. As a defender she even managed to score a goal in this match, not a rare feat for this sportswoman who is an adept kicker with both feet. In February, Perry made her Test cricket debut in England, making her the youngest Australian to play Test cricket. She bats right-handed and bowls with a right-handed fast-medium action, being tipped by some as the future of Australian fast bowling. Unless, of course, the Matildas snare her first.
KYLIE PALMER SWIMMING
Kylie Palmer made her mark as the fastest member of Australia’s 4 x 200 women’s freestyle relay team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Her time of one minute 55.22 seconds set up Australia’s shock gold medal win over superpowers the US and China, not to mention a new world record of 7:44.31. The 18-year-old from Brisbane also came sixth in the 800 metres freestyle in Beijing. Palmer was selected for the 2006 Commonwealth Games at the age of 15, where she came fi fth in the 400 metres freestyle. The powerful swimmer now holds the Commonwealth record of 3:59.23 in that event, a mark she broke at the 2008 FINA world short-course championships.
MELISSA WU DIVING
Melissa Wu has achieved a lot for a 16-year-old who is 37 kilograms and less than 1.51 metres tall. Wu eclipsed some of Australia’s top divers and qualifi ed for two 10- metre platform events at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where she won a silver medal with Briony Cole and finished sixth in the individual event. The girl from Sydney became Australia’s youngest national diving champion in 2006, winning gold in the Australian open diving championships. This feat earned Wu a place in Australia’s 2006 Commonwealth Games squad at just 13 years of age, where she won a silver medal in the 10-metre final. Wu also won a silver medal at the 2007 world championships in Melbourne.
TYLER WRIGHT SURFING
Tyler Wright became the youngest winner (male or female) of an Association of Surfing Professionals World Tour event just weeks ago in the Beachley Classic at Manly. The 14-year-old beat defending world champion, idol and fellow Australian Stephanie Gilmore twice to win the event. The girl from Culburra Beach in NSW qualified by winning the Oakley Trials, a week earlier. Wright was selected in the Australian team for the 2009 world junior championships after finishing second in the 2008 Australian Junior Pro series. The young up-and-comer also won the Billabong Pro Junior at Bells Beach earlier this year.
All by Louisa Whitehead