Pride. That’s the overwhelming feeling I get when I think back on the 2016 Australian Surf Life Saving Championships. Pride in our athletes. Pride in our staff. Pride in the volunteers and officials who delivered one of the best editions of The Aussies in more than a century of its existence.
The commemoration of 100 years of Surf Life Saving on the Sunshine Coast was a fantastic celebration of community service and saving lives. A special thanks to the three Sunshine Coast Surf Life Saving Clubs and their members at Maroochydore, Alexandra Headland and Mooloolaba, whose hospitality was so generous.
A special thanks should also be given to our partners including our Major Event Partner Tourism and Events Queensland, our Event Partners BRP, Finz, Nutri-Grain, Sea and Mix FM and Sunshine Coast Regional Council and our Event Supporters Coates Hire, Pages, Sunshine Coast Airport and Sunshine Coast Daily. Without whom this event would not be possible.
The Aussies is not an easy event to put together and deliver. Think about the numbers;
- 7,000 competitors.
- Nine days of competition.
- And this year, four host venues (including Coolum) – a first for our organisation.
In terms of athlete entries alone, it is bigger than the Commonwealth Games. But with more than 400 volunteers taking time out of their busy lives and schedules, The Aussies happens. It works. And weeks later I, like all of you who were there, sit back with a smile on my face basking in incredible memories and experiences that will stand the test of time.
We all have our favourite Aussies 2016 moments. There are many layers to the event. I could reflect on the nostalgia of having the champions of the past assemble as one to commemorate 50 years of Ironman and 25 years of Ironwoman competition. What an incredible evening that was.
I could highlight the gathering of graduates from our Leadership College and Masterclass programs as the SLSA Alumni continues to grow.
I could single out the Aussies Ocean Swim with 200 hundred swimmers and the awarding of championship medals for the first time in the Open category.
Or seeing the Beach events at Mooloolaba under lights which was very exciting in front of an enthusiastic crowd of spectators.
Maybe it was witnessing the amazing performances in the Surf Boat areas at Alexandra Headland that saw Currumbin women’s and Bulli men’s crews crowned champions.
Perhaps it was seeing some young stars etch their name in The Aussies history books;
- The Pallister siblings – Owen and Lani, who won four gold medals between them in the space of an hour to conclude the National Youth Championships which was such a huge success.
- Grant Kenny and Trevor Hendy hit the Ironman heats finish line together hand in hand as a special nod to the last time we were at Maroochydore in 1980.
- Young Jemma Smith from Umina having a carnival to remember at youth and open level, and eventually winning the Female Athlete of the Championships. An incredible achievement.
- Newport continuing their emergence with Open Taplin relay doubles on the final day.
- Rebecca Creedy turning in one of the greatest swims of her esteemed career to win the Open Ironwoman final.
- Shannon Eckstein doing what he does and putting on a masterful display to make it Ironman title number eight after winning the Surf Swim, his first in an illustrious career.
- Or the crowning of Northcliffe as the Championship Club, another proud moment in their Club’s history.
- Or maybe it was that special moment I had, holding my youngest grandson as his Dad was part of a gold medal winning Rescue Tube Rescue team for my club Bronte.
I think it’s a bit of all of the above. You see Surf Life Saving is a family. We all share in these moments together.
It is 36 years since we were last on the Sunshine Coast for The Aussies. For those who were there all have special memories of that event. I have no doubt 2016 has provided us with equally precious highlights to recall to the next generation.
At events like The Aussies, some of the best moments have nothing to do with medals. Every athlete, official and volunteer walk away with their own special memory of 2016.
That in itself makes me extremely proud. Thank you to all who helped make The Aussies 2016 the special event it was for all involved.