The Sunshine Coast has a long list of sporting champions
By Benny Pike
IN 1968, just one year after the Sunshine Coast received its new name, the Sunshine Coast Sports Federation was formed.
A small but enthusiastic group took up the challenge of forming an arm of the Sportsmans Association of Australia: an idea of former billiards whiz Walter Lindrum to encourage and help foster local sports men and woman.
It wasn’t really hard to select athletes in those days as it was mainly lifesavers, rugby league players, lawn bowlers and amateur boxers. Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games or World Championship representation seemed a quixotic venture for most.
The association’s inaugural president Bob Tisdall erased those fears immediately as the former Irish Olympic gold medallist knew exactly the path needed to encourage our local stars to aim for the top.
Since then, the Sunshine Coast has produced some amazing athletes on the world stage and I will endeavour to celebrate their efforts alphabetically.
Badminton is usually a quiet achiever but Noosa’s Lisa Campbell represented at both the 1994 Commonwealth Games, where she won gold, and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
The 1968 Sport Star was boxer Tony Cash, who started an avalanche of pugs who have stepped in the ring worldwide.
In 1984, Rick Finch scored Olympic silver while Justin Kane won gold in 2002 and Paul Fleming, Brad Hore, Darren Obah, Matt Hayes, Bill Burows and Mike Foley all competed in various Games.
Caloundra thumper Randall Hope was our first Olympian in 1964 at Tokyo but while the Coast’s production line of national champions continued, it wasn’t until 1972 that Nambour light middleweight Allan Jenkinson made it to the Olympics in Munich.
The 2006 Melbourne Games saw Maroochy’s Jai Kingi win basketball gold after Australia beat New Zealand in the final.
Fellow Maroochy juniors Jordan Page and Tom Fullarton have also worn the green and gold.
Caloundra’s Darren Lawson competed in cycling at the 1992 Olympics and Belli Park’s Shara Gillow was next to taste international competition, peaking in London in 2012.
Women also fill the lawn bowls quota, with Kelsey Cottrell, Julie Keegan, Marilyn Peddell, Jenny Harragon and Hilda Betton representing their country. In the men’s ranks, Kevin Henricks, Col Pritcard , Peter Bellis and 1982 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Keith Poole stand out.
The Coast has high-class representation in the motorcycling competition, spearheaded by Yandina’s World Champion Chris Vermeullen and Beerwah’s junior speedsters Jet Lawrence and Wayne McInerny.
Martial arts boasts a smorgasborg of talent, including Muay Thai’s Travis Elson and Hope Meredith, taekwondo’s Rochelle Small, Carlie Dann, Brian Reardon and karate’s Elvin Infante all world champions.
Nambour’s Bianca Burow competed around the world in roller skating championships and now coaches the sport.
In shooting, we’ve been represented at the top level by a small but accurate trio of 1994 Commonwealth Games gold winner Bert Bowden as well as Colin Cole and Adam Gritsham.
Softball smashes them out of the park with Jocelyn McCallum, Tracey Bailey, Kim Cooper, Sandra Allen, Natalie Hodgskin, Tanya Harding and Luke Thomas all international players.
Olympians Greg Bennett and Simon Thomson head the triathlon field with Bianca Van Woesik and Hugh Spanton achieving national honours.
On the tennis courts, Eumundi’s popular Pat Rafter is joined by Caloundra’s Paul Cronk and Shayna McDowell, while touch football has Peta Rogerson, Amanda Baska and Natalie Wilkinson wearing the green and gold.
Olympians Russell Sherwell, Julian Muspratt and Billy Miller score the goals in water polo, with Stacey Gaylard and Nick Porter also gaining berths in in Aussie teams.
Volleyball is covered with Shaun Blackman, Daniel Campbell and Rachel Rourke great ambassadors.
To water-skiing, where Emma Sheers dominated the world in the 2000s and Nambour’s Greg Rogerson was a national champion.
When it comes to athletes with disabilities, the Sunshine Coast has also been well represented.
There is no doubt former Tammun Sands swimming ace Brendan Burkett has led the way. Since moving to the Coast to take up his position as Professor of Sports Science at the University of the Sunshine Coast, his influence has helped many reach their sporting dreams.
Brendan first competed at the 1994 Commonwealth Games before enjoying the great honour of carrying the Australian flag at the Sydney Paralympics. There he was joined by fellow swimmers Jeff Hardy, Cameron deBurgh and Marayke Jonkers, shotputter Tanya Krome and equestrain bronze medalist Marita Hird. Peter Shannon and Debbie Wendt were also in the team.
1968 winner Tony Cash, Miss Australia Helen Newton, Australian/Qld Wicketkeeper Wally Grout.
We start with archery, where Montville’s Ryan Tyack, already a World Junior and Indoor Champion, finally achieved his dream by winning an Olympic bronze medal in Rio last year.
In athletics, the Olympic and Commonwealth Games performances of Alexandra Headland’s Alana Boyd are just the tip of the iceberg, with her siblings Jacinta and Matt also competing at the highest level.
Nambour’s Leanne Evans and Katie Harders were part of the Australian athletics team at the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games, where 1984 Olympic gold medal winner Glynis Nunn continued her Commonwealth Games representation while working as a teacher at Immanuel Lutheran College.
Our other national representatives in athletics included Jason Dudley, Michael Perry, Chris Noffke, Nicole Kay, Melanie Panayiotou, Michelle Cutmore, Zane Palmer and Ebony McIve, with special mention of 1954 javelin gold medallist Jim Achurch who trained by throwing sugar cane on his Nambour farm.
The Coast presently has Kyle Bridgwood, Kristina Clonan and Daniel Fitter all cycling against the world’s best.
Cooroy’s Tim Amitrano has been our only Olympic equestrian jumper, competing at the Athens Games in 2004, while Kellie Anstee and Trent Lindsey have also done national duties.
In canoeing, Maroochy Surf Club led the way with Gordon Jeffrey representing at the 1964, 1968 and 1972 Games, Graham Gillies in 1976, Clint Robinson lining up at five Olympics and Alyce Burnett also wearing the green and gold.
Hayden Kenny and son Grant both paddled for Australia, as did Paul Gilmore, Rachel Lovell and Alyssa Bull – all from Alexandra Headland – and Rowena Coghill from the Kawana club.
Noosa apprentice plumber Larissa Crummer was our star on the football pitch, pulling on the Matildas’ Aussie jumper in Rio last year after slotting the most goals in the national competition.
Golf was reintroduced for the Rio Games, with Caloundra’s British Open winner Ian Baker-Finch named captain of the Australian team. The Coast has had many junior golfers in the international spotlight, with Richard Moir, Jamie Rogers, Katherine Hull, Steven Bowditch and Jack Trent all winning medals at World Championships.
Former Maroochy Beach Gymnastics coach and 1992 Olympian Kylie Shadbolt was the first Aussie to score gold at the 1989 Gymnastics World Cup.
Our hockey honours have been dominated by woman, with Jodie Kenny an Olympian and Ashlea Fey and Jacquie Day both winning places on the Australian team.
World Cup player Gary Jennison and Aussie rep Stephen Green have been the only male hockey players to reach such levels.
Lake Cootharaba produced 1988 Olympic sailor Brad Schafferius while Mooloolaba Yacht Club was home to world champions Jenny Dickson, Kerry Ireland, Mitch Kennedy and the inspirational Jessica Watson who may never have competed in a Games or world champs but deserves a mention in any list of our sporting greats.
Noosa’s had its share of sailing heroes with Ryan Palk, Klad Hauschildt and Indee Laborie.
Cotton Tree laid claim to 1970 national spearfishing champion Richard Weir.
Rugby union has had its fair share of Australian players such as Craig Pollermounter, Ryan Constable, Emma Sykes, Tate McDermott, Michael O’Connor, Shirley Russell and Rio Olympics gold medallist Evania Pelite.
Rowing is another poplar sport on the Sunshine Coast but Sonia Mills is our lone Olympian, representing in the eights at the 2005 World Championships and the women’s double scull at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Staying in the water, our list of swimming stars reads like a who’s who with Olympic gold medallists Melanie Wright and Brittany Elmslie at the top of the pack.
Lisa Curry, David Orbell, Angela Kennedy, Samantha Hamill, Deanne Johnson, Tessa Wallace, Remy Fairweather, Taylor McKeown, Jake Packard, Leah Neale, Nicole Irving, Josh Krogh, Nick D’Arcy, Michael Sage, Regan Harrison and Ellen Fullerton have all been great Australian reps.
The popularity grew, with wheelchair basketballer Alison Mosely and sprinter Lara Hollow-Willams joining Marayke Jonkers in the Australian team in 2004. Jonkers grabbed bronze at her third Games in Beijing.
The London Games welcomed shot-putter Lindsey Sutton, basketballer Bridie Kean and swimmers Blake Cochrane, Rick Pendleton and Michael Anderson.
Then 2016 saw a record number with freestyle sensation Lakeisha Patterson the star of the show with four gold medals.
She was joined by Liam Schluter, Guy Harrison-Murray, Logan Powell, Rick Pendleton, Michael Anderson, Braeden Jason, Jacob Templeton and Blake Cochrane.
Rower Gavin Bellis and cyclist Kyle Bridgwood were members of the athletics team while Brendan Burkett and Jan Cameron were pool-deck officals.
It’s been a stunning 50 years in Sunshine Coast sport.
Bring on the next 50.
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