Press Release courtesy of Swimming Australia
Swimming Australia will honour the best of the best for 2017 at its glittering annual Gala Dinner at the Adelaide Convention Centre on Sunday night.
It’s the one black tie night of the year when the Dolphins swap their caps and goggles of the pool for the glitz and glamour of the blue carpet.
The 28th Awards will recognise the performances of the present-day stars, coaches, volunteers and officials who will be honoured alongside former greats, local legends and the announcement of the prestigious Optus Club of the Year.
With the Australian team about to start their preparations for the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast they will bask briefly in the glory of the past 12 months with the announcement of five major individual awards for the:
- Short Course Swimmer of the Year
- Open Water Swimmer of the Year
- Paralympic Program Swimmer of the Year
- Olympic Program Swimmer of the Year and;
- Hancock Prospecting Swimmer’s Swimmer.
Other awards will include the Services to the Australian Swim Team; the AIS Discovery of the Year; the Roger Smith Technical Official of the Year; the Optus Local Legend of the Year; and the Youth, Open Water, and Hancock Prospecting Paralympic and Olympic Program Coaches of the Year.
Swimming Australia patron, Hancock Prospecting chairman Mrs. Gina Rinehart will also present the highly sought after Patron Awards for the Paralympic and Olympic Programs.
The Gala celebration has come a long way since champion distance swimmer Glen Housman – who set the fastest time in the world for 1500m freestyle in Adelaide in 1989 – was named Australia’s inaugural Swimmer of the Year for 1990.
It was the only award of the year as Australia prepared for the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland where Housman won a deserved gold medal in the 1500m freestyle before his Olympic silver in Barcelona in 1992.
Since 1990, names like Kieren Perkins, Susie O’Neill, Ian Thorpe, Grant Hackett, Jodie Henry, Libby Trickett, Leisel Jones, Stephanie Rice and Kyle Chalmers have all added their names to an all-star list for the Olympic Program Swimmer of the Year– Thorpe a five time winner between 1999 and 2003 when he shared the award with Hackett.
Thorpe and Hackett were a lethal 1-2 freestyle combination in Barcelona that year after their domination at the FINA World Championships where they claimed the 200 and 400m freestyle (Thorpe) and the 800 and 1500m (Hackett) doubles.
The only other time the award has been shared came in 2015 when another World Championship double act from Kazan in the form of Bronte Campbell (50 and 100m freestyle) and Emily Seebohm (100 and 200m backstroke) shared the spoils.
This year again saw Australia’s Dolphins take on the world’s best in the FINA World Championships in Budapest in both the pool and open water where they collected a total of 10 medals – one gold, five silver and four bronze – amongst a host of encouraging performances en-route to the Gold Coast and Tokyo in 2020.
It was a meet that saw Brisbane’s 25-year-old Seebohm produce the swim of the meet for the Dolphins to defend her 200 metres backstroke crown, ahead of an all-star field, winning her fifth World Championship gold in her fifth World Championships.
She also added silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay and bronze medals in the 100m backstroke and the 4x100m medley relay.
Seebohm had plenty of support, and none better came from Wollongong-born now Gold Coast-based contender Emma McKeon, who became the first Australian woman to win six medals at a long course World Championships.
The 23-year-old followed up her medal madness in Rio, where she won four medals – adding two extras in Budapest – taking silver medals in the 100m butterfly, the 200m freestyle, 4x100m freestyle relay and 4x100m mixed medley relay as well as bronze medals in the 4x200m freestyle and 4x100m medley relays.
Australia’s open water swimmers were also out in force with the Sunshine Coast’s pair, Rio Olympian, Chelsea Gubecka (ninth) and Kareena Lee (19th) and newcomer Jack Brazier (17th) leading the way in the helter skelter Olympic Distance 10km event.
Gubecka, who was 14 in her first Worlds in 2013, was also ninth in the 25km which saw Brazier 21st while Australia (Jack McLoughlin, Brazier, Lee and Kiah Melverton) also claimed a close up fourth in the Mixed 5km teams relay.
And despite the disappointment following the postponement of the Para World Swimming Championships, Australia’s selected team went on to dominate at the Canada Open Meet, where there were some outstanding performances by a classy Australian team.
The upbeat Australians headed to the Canadian Open following the tragic earthquakes that rocked Mexico City, forced organisers to postpone the event.
Heading the list of Australian winners and the race for Paralympic Program Swimmer of the Year was reigning Commonwealth Games champion from Glasgow in 2014, Brisbane’s Rowan Crothers and Rio gold medallists Rachael Watson, Ellie Cole, Lakeisha Patterson and Brenden Hall.
Crothers notched gold in the 50, 100 and 200m freestyle –including a sizzling 51.15 in the 100m freestyle for the now an S10 classified athlete, was outstanding to claim the win in an all-Australian finish from Matt Levy, Rio golden boy Hall and Braeden Jason in a rare first four finish from the Dolphins.
Born with cerebral palsy diplegia, causing stiffness in his lower limbs and his right arm, swimming became part of Rowan’s physiotherapy regime and he has gone on to become one of the world’s most promising Para freestylers.
The Australians certainly flexed their muscles in the premier 100m freestyle events, which also saw Paralympic wheelchair golden girl Watson (S4) add her second win of the meet in the Multi Class women’s event in 1:27.62, following her win in the 50m freestyle.
Patterson and Hall were victorious in their respective 400m freestyle events while NSW South Coast, debutant Jasmine Greenwood (SB9) showed why she will be one to watch, striking gold in the women’s 100m breaststroke.
Blue Carpet arrivals are open to media at the Adelaide Convention Centre from 6:00pm (SA time).