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Bennelong Athletes @ Rio Olympics

Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (21:25): Along with my colleague the member for Kingsford Smith and many other Australians, I was an avid watcher of the recent Rio Olympics. Our athletes gave their all and came away with incredible results. More importantly, I am certain that all our athletes left everything on the field, in the pool or on the track, and for that, more than their result, I am very proud.

Bennelong had a higher proportion of Olympians than most electorates—five athletes had a connection with the great electorate I represent, and more in coaching teams. Between them, these competitors brought home two gold medals, as well as achieving a fifth, a sixth and a seventh place. This is an incredible local result. I would like to speak about a number of these athletes.

One of the most incredible gold medals of the games came from sailing’s Tom Burton, who played a game of cat and mouse to deceive the leading Croatian sailor and steal pole position from him before they had even started the final race. From there he sailed expertly to maintain his lead and snatch the gold medal. Sneaky—that is what I like about a good competitor. This race captivated the nation and made all of us instant aficionados of international sailing, just like in the last two weeks of January when everybody becomes an expert on tennis, and I realise how little I know.

Tom’s connection to the great electorate of Bennelong comes, strangely, not through sailing, despite our portion of the Parramatta River being home to two wonderful sailing clubs, the Concord and Ryde club and the Parramatta River club. Rather, he played junior rugby at Eastwood rugby club—one of two medals for the club.

Keesja Gofers competed in the women’s water polo team, which came sixth overall. They started off the round-robin stage strongly and had some dominant wins including over the hosts.

Aidan Roach also competed in water polo, for the men’s team. Like the women, our men performed very strongly but were kept out of the finals in a round-robin stage that saw a lot of upsets and many favourites knocked out.

Water polo has had a strong heritage in Bennelong since Ryde aquatic centre was chosen to hold games during the Sydney Olympics. These easily accessible matches were highly popular with local residents and brought the game to a whole new generation.

Chris Morgan was one of our double sculls pairs, who narrowly missed out on the A finals and was subsequently victorious in the B finals. Chris lives locally in Bennelong—I understand he is a Liberal voter—close to the excellent rowing conditions and boat sheds of the Parramatta River.

Melissa Wu is a household name, having competed successful over many years at the sport of platform diving. She had another great games and finished with a fifth place in the individual 10 metre platform. Melissa is now a student at Macquarie University, one of the many thousands of students attracted to our world renowned university.

Finally, while not a competitor himself, John Manenti was a member of the coaching teams for both our men’s and women’s rugby sevens squads. Our women’s team was especially admired, and their flowing and aggressive style saw them taking out the gold medal with a wonderful game against the always threatening Kiwis.

It is to this I would like to speak. For many, many generations we took great pride in our sporting success because our sporting champions came from people who we played the sport or swam in the pools with. There is not a school that did not have school swimming carnival. Every woman of a certain age swam with Dawn Fraser. In my sport, everyone of a certain age played with Lew Hoad or Ken Rosewall. My son often reflects to me that of all the people we meet who I played tennis against as a kid I never won a match. How come I became a tennis player? I tell him I persisted. But I think sometimes we miss what the essence of sport is about. We count up the medals and wonder whether we should have done better and lament that we did not do as well as we could have, but to me that is missing the point of sport. It is when those who represent us come from a huge base of participation—

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