Olympic and Paralympic Games


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (11:29): I move:

That this house congratulates all the South Australia n athletes on their selection to the Australian team for the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Of course, we do now find ourselves in a slight predicament but I do not see any need whatsoever for amendments. I gave notice of this motion on 17 May and set a date for debate of 19 July which was, of course, going to be before both the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games commenced. The motion was going to be to congratulate them for their nomination to the teams. Now we find ourselves, because of the maintenance required to this chamber, in a situation where the Olympic Games are finished and the Paralympic Games are still ongoing, but I do not see any reason why we cannot all join together in our support for all of these athletes.

I am sure we are all incredibly proud of every single South Australian who has gone to London to represent our nation at the Paralympic and Olympic Games. They all compete at the highest level of competition in the world and deserve to be held in extremely high esteem for their sporting ability which we should all remember is a combination of natural talent, physical and mental training, application, determination and, very importantly, support from their family, coaches, friends, sporting clubs and other supportive organisations. They are also held in high esteem for the focus, dedication and sacrifices they and their families have made along the way without which none of them would be representing us on the world stage.

While we acknowledge our national champions, please also take a moment to consider the hundreds of thousands of other sports men and women and boys and girls who train and compete at all levels throughout our state and our nation and the very important contribution that they make to our communities and our culture as a whole.

Of course, while we admire AFL and many other sporting champions, there is no doubt that the Paralympians and the Olympians are at the very top of the tree. Let me first mention our South Australian Olympians, and that is only because their competition has finished and while the Paralympians are still overseas representing us as we speak. In fact, as we speak, I hope they are all tucked up in bed getting ready for competition tomorrow; that would be the sensible thing.

Our South Australian representatives at the Olympic Games were Jessica Trengove (athletics), Brad Newley (basketball), Abby Bishop (basketball), Laura Hodges (basketball), Jenni Screen (basketball). The women's basketball team won a bronze medal. Let me make special mention of Abby Bishop who comes from Melrose, a small town 22 kilometres away from Wilmington where I live. Other South Australians at the Olympic Games were Louise Bawden and Becchara Palmer (both in beach volleyball), Johan Linde (boxing), Hannah Davis (canoeing), Sam Willoughby (BMX) who won a silver medal, Brian Kirkham (BMX) who is a former Port Augustan, Stuart O'Grady (road cycling), Jack Bobridge (track cycling), Rohan Dennis (track cycling), Annette Edmonson (track cycling), Alex Edmonson (track cycling), Matt Glaetzer (track cycling), Kaarle McCulloch (track cycling), Anna Meares (track cycling) who won a gold medal. Anna Meares, Kaarle McCulloch and Annette Edmonson won bronze medals, and Jack Bobridge and Rohan Dennis won silver medals. Congratulations to all of them.

Other South Australian Olympians were Rachel Bugg (diving), Blake Gaudry (gymnastics), Renee Chatterton (rowing), Bryn Coudraye (rowing), James McRae (rowing), who won a bronze medal, Chris Morgan (rowing), David Chapman (shooting), Hayley Chapman (shooting), Will Godward (shooting), bronze medallist Hayden Stoeckel (swimming), our world famous South Australian champion Lleyton Hewitt (tennis), Harrison Peacock (volleyball), Nathan Roberts (volleyball), Greg Sukochev (volleyball) and Aden Tutton (volleyball) who are internationally famous now because our 22nd ranked South Australian team beat Poland which is third ranked in the world. Congratulations to all of those athletes. I would like to highlight that in individual performances all of those athletes won one gold medal, four silver medals and nine bronze medals—14 medals in total, which equates to 13.1 per cent of the total medals won by our Australian team well in excess of (nearly double) our average by population. Congratulations. Our South Australians really did us proud in that category.

South Australia's Paralympians are: in athletics, Gabriel Cole and Michael Roeger; in cycling, Kieran Modra, who won a gold medal with pilot, Scott McPhee; also winning gold in cycling, Felicity Johnson, with pilot, Stephanie Morton; in equestrian, Grace Bowman; in goalball, Rachel Henderson; in shooting, a very famous and very popular Libby Kosmala OAM, aged 70, at her 11th Paralympic Games, which is an extraordinary achievement; and in swimming the equally world-famous Matt Cowdrey, who so far in this meet has won three gold and two silver, and overnight became Australia's most prolific gold medal Paralympian, breaking his own world record in the 50 metres and winning his 11th gold medal. So far in his career, Matt has won 11 gold, seven silver and two bronze medals. Also in swimming are Jay Dohnt and Esther Overton.

Our South Australian Paralympians have so far won five gold and two silver, totalling seven medals, which is currently 10 per cent of the medals won by all Australians at the Paralympic Games. Again, we are overachieving in relation to our state's representation on a per capita basis. With respect to gold medals, South Australians have won five gold medals to date, which is nearly 16 per cent of the total gold medals won by Australian Paralympians so far. Again, that is well in excess of what would have been expected by our state on just a population basis. I am not too proud to say that in my youth I dreamed of being an Olympian.

Honourable members: It's not too late!

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: Thank you very much to members opposite for their support, but I do know that it is too late. The reason I say that is that I know what an extraordinary achievement it is for all of our athletes—men and women, Paralympians and Olympians—to have achieved the heights they have. Purely to be selected on one of these teams is extraordinary. I worked my guts out; I tried as hard as I possibly could, I performed extremely well, and I am very satisfied with my achievements, but I was a long way from being an Olympian, so I hold these people in exceptionally high regard.

As we celebrate the combined 47 South Australian athletes who represent us this year on the international stage, please take a moment to consider how far we have come as a state, as a nation and as a community, that we look up to and admire these champions equally. It is their personal story, their achievement, their talent, their integrity, their personality, their charisma, and their other strengths and attributes that will make each one of us pick out our own personal heroes from all these champions. It will not be whether an athlete competed at the Paralympics or the Olympics that will have a bearing on that choice.

As we celebrate all 47 of these athletes—and, it must be said, their two pilots in the cycling—please consider what more each one of us here can and will do to put all people on an equal playing field in our minds and that it is their important personal qualities, efforts and achievements that will impact on our judgement about people and not their physical differences.

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (12:27): It is a great pleasure to move a successful motion in this place, and as shadow minister I very genuinely appreciate the support of the minister, all of my colleagues and all of those opposite. There is no doubt that we are at one in this motion in a very genuine fashion, so I thank all members for their contribution. I highlight that, perhaps, the member for Morialta was more generous than he needed to be in some of his comments but that was very good of him.

I would also like to recognise the member for Mawson's comments about Emily Seebohm, and I think that that is very important. There is always some difficulty in who we claim. He is quite right that she is originally a South Australian and I think it is appropriate to mention her in the way that Anna Meares was not originally a South Australian. We are very proud to claim Anna Meares and, of course, Emily Seebohm is welcome back any time she likes.

The Hon. R.B. Such: What about Julia Gillard? She is South Australian.

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: Member for Fisher, I was talking about Emily Seebohm. With regard to the medal count, I would also like to highlight that, in the Olympics, our nation finished 10th in the medal count and so far in the Paralympics our nation is ranked fifth internationally in the medal count. Again, that speaks volumes for our Paralympians and our Paralympic program, and I think that it is absolutely outstanding that we can be so proud of all 47 of our athletes who have gone away to represent us at both games.

I would like to refocus very briefly on the fact that we admire and revere them all equally, and whether they compete at the Olympics or the Paralympics, they are on exactly the same pedestal, and that is because they provide us with heroes, and heroes are exceptionally important in life, and I do not mind where heroes come from. It is very appropriate that our heroes, in some cases, should be our family members and in some cases should be friends. We can have heroes in business, we can have heroes in art, and in medicine. We can have heroes in politics, and we can have heroes in sport, and I think that is absolutely fantastic. Our heroes in sport may be able-bodied or they may be otherwise, and I think it is fantastic that we have got to that stage. We have a way to go, but I think we should all be very proud of the fact that that is exactly how we feel, and that we can pick who our heroes are going to be based on their personal characteristics and not necessarily on their physical attributes.

Let me just wind up, Mr Deputy Speaker, by thanking all those athletes, their coaches, supporters, families, friends and administrators for representing us so well in London.

Honourable members: Hear, hear!

Motion carried.


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