Thomas Deng's journey from South Sudanese refugee to Socceroo

Submitted by admin on Sat, 06/20/2020 - 14:00
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Thomas Deng - Football Federation Australia
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They say football is a universal language and Thomas Deng’s journey from South Sudanese refugee to Socceroo proves exactly that.

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As Australia celebrates National Refugee Week, the Urawa Red Diamonds defender opened up on how football was invaluable in overcoming the challenges he and his family faced after they first settled in South Australia in 2004.

Born in Nairobi, Kenya, Deng was just six when most of his family fled the Sudanese conflict and were granted refugee status in Australia. 

While Thomas, his four older siblings, and their mother familiarised themselves with society down under, Deng’s father remained in Kenya as a doctor with Save the Children.


The family never reunited as a whole.

Deng’s father tragically passed away in 2007, leaving his mother to serve as both a “father figure” and a “mother figure.”

While he was too young to vividly recall the details of his journey, Deng is well aware of the extreme sacrifices his parents were forced to make in search of a better life.

“We came through a refugee camp before making the transition to Australia,” Deng recounted.

“I remember Mum always telling us that we're coming in for a good purpose. It was always for the kids, for us to study, and lead to more opportunities for the family.

“But it was a big shock jumping off the plane and entering a new place not knowing what to expect and how the people are.”

Deng is familiar with the day-to-day hardships experienced by so many refugees who grow up in an unfamiliar culture.
 

 

For him there is one inexplicable, yet all too common, encounter that stands out.

“I remember going to your local shopping centre and being followed around in the shops as if you're going to steal something,” Deng recalled.

“I think that's the worst thing that's ever happened to me. It's just, a bad feeling. Because not everyone is bad, so don't judge a book by its cover.”  

Deng’s life changed when he joined his first football club, the Adelaide Blue Eagles.

He proudly recalls how the sport broke down barriers for him and his oldest brother Peter, who has recently represented South Sudan on the international stage.

“Football made it so much easier to make friends whether it was at school or my first soccer club in Adelaide,” Deng reflected.

“I felt like I didn't really need to speak a language to play football.

“It really, really made the transition easier for me.”

Fast forward a decade or so to October 2018, and the former Melbourne Victory defender famously made his Socceroos debut in Kuwait City alongside fellow Sudanese refugee and school-friend Awer Mabil.
 

 

The Australian U-23 skipper labels it by far “the biggest moment” of his football career to date.

“Making our debut on the same night was really special,” Deng said. “It's something that we're going to cherish forever, even after our football careers.

“The first thing that we said (after the game) was, ‘this is not only for us, it's showing other young African kids and migrants, that anything's possible.’”

Deng and Mabil are just a couple of examples within the rich crop of refugee sportspeople who are starring throughout Australian sport today.

Deng hopes that they can work together to collectively empower young refugees who are in the same position he once was.

“Football brought us all together as a refugee community and it's bringing us even closer now, as there's now a lot of role models in every code,” he said.

“I think it's really important for us as role models to come together and really show people a different side to ourselves.

“When they look at people such as Awer Mabil, me and many others, I think it gives them a sense of hope and that there is a good opportunity to become that person one day, and to strive to be better.

“That's our goal and that's what we're trying to do: to give them a sense of encouragement that they can achieve whatever they put their mind to.”

Article and images courtesy of Socceroos.com.au

Asif Sultani: From war-torn Afghanistan to the Olympic Refugee Team

Submitted by admin on Sat, 06/20/2020 - 09:00
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Asif Sultani
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Going from the war-torn Middle East where he was unable to attend school or his dojo, to becoming a refugee and Australian Tokyo 2020 hopeful, karate athlete Asif Sultani's story is one of inspiration, gratitude and resilience.

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The 24-year-old spent the first two decades of his life as an outcast, seeking asylum until he was finally 'treated like a human being' when he came to Australia and was offered an IOC Refugee Scholarship.
 


 

Asif Sultani's journey began when he was seven years old.

Due to ongoing war and conflict in Afghanistan, Asif and his family moved to Iran and although they escaped the war, they were still treated as second-class citizens, with Asif spending his childhood being bullied due to his ethnicity.

He was also was unable to attend school because of his status as an asylum seeker.

"I was an asylum seeker so when my family fled from Afghanistan to Iran, we didn't have any rights," Asif said.

"Whether you were a child or an adult, you weren't allowed to do much, especially if you were from Afghanistan and that meant that I wasn't able to go to school.

"That really impacted me and made me question my value and who I was. I remember I would get angry at my dad and blame him," he shared.

"I would ask him why we were so different, why couldn't I just be a normal kid who could go to school and study and become someone. Why couldn't I have a dream?"

Asif decided to take up karate as a way of protecting himself from bullies and the outside world as his father would often warn him about the dangers of being an asylum seeker out in public.

Despite falling in love with the sport instantly, Asif was barred from the dojo shortly after starting, due to where he came from, but undeterred by his situation, he set up his own training in his backyard and practiced in secret alongside his friends.

"Martial arts didn't just teach me to punch and kick, it taught me discipline, respect, honour and compassion which I was able to apply to my life."

He spent the next few years of his life making the best of his situation, with karate providing a positive light amidst being outcast and unable to socialise or participate in the community.

 

In 2012, the then 16-year-old had to make a momentous decision. Asif was able to leave Iran and the ongoing persecution he faced, but had to leave his family behind. 

He travelled from Iran to Indonesia then to Christmas Island where he spent three months. 

He was later transferred to a Western Australian detention centre before being sent to Tasmania and finally, to Sydney, where he lived in community detention for young asylum seekers. 

He would remain there until he was 18.

Self-motivated and determined, the teenager continued practicing his martial arts with the help of staff who worked at the detention centre.

“We had a gym at the camp that was open from 3.00 pm until 7.00 pm and I would be there the whole time,” Asif recalled.

“We had a trainer who would come in a couple of times a week and he was very supportive, he’d hold the pads for me and help me to work out.

“There were also two officers who used to come in early in the morning to train with me, even though they didn’t have to. It wasn’t part of their job, they just wanted to help me,” he continued.

“That was when I realised that Australia was a country where I could turn my dreams into reality. I’d never had that support and it really encouraged and motivated me even more.

“It was the first time in my life I had been with people who were willing to accept me for who I was and the first time I’d ever been treated like a human being."

“They encouraged me, and I started to think that one day, maybe, I would be treated like everyone else instead of being looked down on.”

In 2014, after spending two decades of his life as an asylum seeker, he was finally granted refugee status.

The first thing Asif wanted to do as an 18-year-old was to go to school for the first time in his life, but due to his age found it difficult finding somewhere that would accept him.

Eventually, a high school in Maitland offered him a spot in Year 10. He completed Years 10, 11 and 12 over three years and graduated in 2016.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Background 🇦🇫🇦🇺 ••••• Approximately 5 years ago, I fled to Australia after ongoing conflict and safety risks in Afghanistan. Learning the Australian lifestyle has not been without challenges, however thanks to my Australian family and friends, it is now a place I can call home. I began learning Martial Arts prior to coming to Australia, and have been fortunate enough to continue learning and practising today. The various disciplines I practise have taught me to respect all people, and to put humanity above all else. ••••• “There are two important lessons in our lives that are essential for mental and spiritual growth. The first is when we are born and the second is when we discover who we are.” - Asif Sultani @refugees @australiaforunhcr

A post shared by Asif Sultani (@asifsultani_fitness) on


Asif was also able to step foot inside a dojo for the first time since he was 12 and would train every day before and after school.

“Because I was quite poor, I didn’t have a car so every morning before school I would wake up at 5.00 am, run seven kilometres to the dojo then run back home and run to school. Then I’d do it again after school.”

Asif started participating in local karate competitions and although he finished poorly in the beginning, a friend, Ali, lit a fire in his belly and by 2016, he was ranked first in NSW.

“In 2014, a friend of mine, Ali, who was also from Afghanistan, competed alongside me at a World Cup competition,” Asif recounted.

“We both lost every fight. He was a little bit older so wanted to retire with a win, and when he couldn’t, he just broke down and cried.

“He said to me, ‘Promise me for the next world cup, you’re going to represent us both, represent all refugees and win that trophy’.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

What a great experience. A massive thank you to everyone who supported me, including my friends, family and Nova team.

A post shared by Asif Sultani (@asifsultani_fitness) on


In 2017, Asif won the NSW World Cup trophy and after seeing the Rio 2016 Olympic Games which included its first-ever Refugee Olympic Team, set his sights on Tokyo 2020.

Asif also received an IOC scholarship to help him achieve that dream. The IOC’s Olympic Solidarity provides funding for 37 refugee athletes around the world, to assist with training and building a future in their new countries.

“When I heard about the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, I didn’t really know that could be me one day,” he said.

“I had grown up accepting that I wouldn’t have the same opportunities as other people because I was always seeking asylum.

“As a kid, always hearing that you’re not good enough or that you will never have the same privileges as everyone else makes you believe that it’s true. 

“Hearing about the first Refugee Olympic Team in Rio inspired me and gave me hope so I applied for the IOC Refugee Scholarship and in October 2018 found out that I had been accepted. 

“I cried because I was so happy. I never thought as a refugee that I would have an opportunity like this in my life.”

Asif hasn’t seen his family since he left Iran and sadly, his father passed away in 2013, not long after Asif arrived in Australia.

“That is one of the hardest things about becoming a refugee, that you never know when you will see your family again. 

“When I left in 2012, I had no idea it would be the last time I would see my father and it’s the same with my mum, I don’t know if the next time I meet her, will be at her grave,” he shared.

But, rather than focus on the hardships of his life so far, Asif wants to act as a ‘light of hope’ for other refugees, especially children.

“I went through a lot of hardships, especially as a kid which does affect you a lot more when you’re younger, but the one thing I never lost was hope,” he said.

“I always just kept going, even at the age of 12 after I was banned from the dojo I didn’t lose hope, I set up my own training in my backyard because I had this hope in my heart that one day I would be able to tell people this story and inspire them.

“When I was a kid, I always wanted to have someone like me to look up to, someone who was a refugee that went through what I went through and was able to get through it and be successful.

“It is so important for refugees to know that regardless of your circumstances, no one can take away your ability to dream.


“I want these young asylum seekers to know that their struggle is my struggle, I understand, I went through it and I never want them to lose hope.

“Hope is what keeps you alive and they are stronger than whatever negativity they face.”
Asif says that his mother is to thank for his resilience and positive outlook on life.

“My mother was a really big influence, she always taught me that no matter how bad things were, your attitude was most important and you needed to be thankful for what you did have in your life.

“I would try to apply that to everything I went through, all the negativity that would come from other kids who would bully me, I would overcome those feelings with gratitude and use them to create the best version of myself.

“The more difficulties I faced, the more resilient I became. I would look at other kids and accept that I didn’t have the same privileges they did but the only way to overcome that was to survive and thrive.

“My mum taught me to have hope in my heart that one day I could become whoever I wanted.”

Even today, Asif practices daily gratitude, keeping notes in a gratitude jar and utilising positive self-talk.

“I stand in front of the mirror every day and say to myself, ‘I can, I will, I must survive, I can, I will, I must thrive.’

“It was something that I’ve always done because when you don’t have anyone to encourage you, you need to encourage yourself.”

At Rio 2016, the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team of 10 athletes competed alongside 11,000 fellow athletes, sending a message of hope and inclusion to millions of refugees around the world and inspiring the world with the strength of their human spirit.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thank you 🤝 ••••• If I am able to attend and compete in Tokyo 2020 Olympics, it would be a massive privilege to represent all of the refugees around the world. I would not be where I am today if it was not for the support of my family, friends, and the various organisations/services aimed at helping refugees around the world. A big special thanks to the UNHCR, who as an international organisation, promote the rights and freedoms of refugees. They protect and assist refugees all over the world, and provide numerous services to assist refugees with settling into a new country. @refugees @australiaforunhcr as a refugee, I would like to say that your unconditional compassion for all human lives is seen and appreciated. ••••• “As an individual we are strong, but together we are undefeatable.” - Asif Sultani @refugees @australiaforunhcr

A post shared by Asif Sultani (@asifsultani_fitness) on


Asif continues to train with the goal of making the Olympic Refugee Team in Tokyo.

Although competing at Tokyo 2020 is a dream for Asif, inspiring compassion and unity is his primary goal.

“Competing at Tokyo would be amazing but not because I want to win a medal for myself,” he said.

“Just being able to go and compete, like a ‘normal’ person and show that a refugee can achieve just as much as anyone else.

"We are just as capable and at the end of the day we are all just one race, the human race."

“For me, it’s about going over there and representing the power of human compassion and unity.

“As refugees, we didn’t choose our lives, we didn’t choose to be persecuted or separated from our families or to flee our homes, but as individuals, these experiences make us strong and together, we are unstoppable.”

You can find out more about the Olympic Refugee Team HERE and how Olympic Solidarity funding helps athletes and sporting communities around the world HERE.

Liana Buratti

Celebrate Olympic Day Live with Aussie Olympic Legends

Submitted by admin on Fri, 06/19/2020 - 18:33
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Olympic Day Live, hosted by Optus
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Celebrate Olympic Day with Aussie Olympic champions Ian Thorpe and Ellia Green, with Olympic Day Live, hosted by Optus!

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You're invited to tune in on Tuesday 23 June at 12.30pm AEST to hear directly from Ian Thorpe, Australia’s most successful Olympian, and Ellia Green, who made history as the first ever Olympic champions in Rugby 7s at Rio 2016, about what the Olympics means to them.

Hosted by Channel 7’s Mark Beretta, Ian and Ellia will share their Olympic experiences, and check in with athletes and community members who have set #OlympicDayGoals – working on new challenges throughout June to achieve by Olympic Day.

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Set your reminder below.

Olympic Day is an international celebration that celebrates what we love about the Games – inspiring moments uniting the country as Aussies challenge themselves against the best in the world.

This year Olympic Day takes on an even greater meaning – rather than preparing for the Tokyo Olympics in one month, athletes are dealing with a postponed Games, and everyone from Olympic champions to local sporting clubs and schools are slowly getting back into sport after lockdown.

Tune in and celebrate Olympic Day on Tuesday with some of Australia’s greatest athletes and share your own #OlympicDayGoals.

Olympic Kayaker Cat McArthur brings women's paddle team together during lockdown

Submitted by admin on Fri, 06/19/2020 - 08:27
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Cat McArthur, Australia Womens K1 500mtr International Canoe Federation World Championships, Szeged, Hungary. Saturday 24 August 2019 © Copyright photo Steve McArthur / Paddle Australia
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Lockdown restrictions have been easing around the country and Paddle Australia’s canoe sprint and canoe slalom paddlers are slowly returning to their pre-COVID19 training routines – with a new goal and a new timeline after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games were postponed by one year to 2021.  

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Over the last couple of months, adapting to this major shift in goalposts has been one of the biggest challenges for everyone on the Australian Paddle Team after all Olympic canoe sprint and canoe slalom paddlers had locked in their Australian Olympic Tokyo 2020 Team selections just before the postponement.

Reorganising life around this shift in goals and timelines as well as settling into a new life and training routine during lockdown has been an ongoing task over the last couple of months.  And while athletes were training from home, spread across different locations around the country with state borders closed, Zoom and other technologies helped to keep the team spirit up and the team ‘virtually’ close.

Coupled with resourcefulness, creativity and working with the tools and skills on hand, the COVID19-lockdown period, despite its challenges, also made for plenty of positive takeaways with some of them here to stay.

Take the Zoom-Pilates sessions, Gold Coast-based sprint kayaker Cat McArthur introduced for the Olympic women’s team kayakers, which soon became a regular occurrence and weekly highlight that spread across the country to Perth, Adelaide and Sydney and even overseas.
 

 

“The idea about Zoom-Pilates sessions came about from a few different avenues. I was initially very quiet during COVID at my physio job, and our work had looked at the idea of taking some group Zoom classes for current clients.  

I had never really done anything through online avenues before, so I wanted to gain some confidence and get feedback with my style of instructing with those I know would be happy to give me honest feedback.  So, I ran a session with my mum and dad back in Adelaide first, but also asked my fellow teammates if they could help me out and be my guinea pigs,” Olympic team first-timer Cat McArthur explained, who is a physiotherapist and guru Pilates instructor in her ‘other life’.

It was a win-win situation with the sessions not only providing McArthur with the opportunity to test her online-training skills on her team mates, but also delivering some much needed (virtual) social interaction within the team that everyone was craving for.

“One of the ideas of the sessions was about remaining engaged and connected during the whole lockdown period.  Whilst I am very settled in my living environment here on the Gold Coast, I also found myself unable to see my family and friends in Adelaide, as well as missing some of my teammates, who I would usually spend many hours with every day.  So having the idea of connecting on a weekly basis to re-group and reconnect was important,” McArthur said.

An initiative that was very appreciated by the whole team, including fellow first-time Olympic team paddler Shannon Reynolds who zoomed in from Western Australia and also enjoyed the team catch up while being separated from the rest of team.

“It’s been a great opportunity to catch up with my teammates in an informal fashion, where we can laugh with each other (and at each other) and feel like we’ve done something together each week.  And it’s been a great reminder that we are heading towards a common goal and we will achieve our best as a bonded team,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds had done Pilates with McArthur before and already started to sweat only hearing about the first online session.

 

“When I lived on the GC, Cat took me to my first ever reformer Pilates.  After trying to keep up with her during that class I couldn’t walk for a week, and never went again.  My initial thoughts when Cat suggested an online Pilates session got me sweating immediately!  Cat has proved to be such a professional in this area that we all enjoy the sessions and we can all still walk afterwards,” Reynolds laughed.

“The sessions have been a great break from the normal, and sometimes lonely routines of paddling, running and gym.  

And having not only our close (canoe sprint) team but special guests like our slalom weapon Jess Fox and our Swedish weapon Linnea Stensils join us is a credit to Cat’s initiative,” Reynolds added with the news about the sessions spreading quickly across the disciplines and international borders with Swedish Olympic kayaker Linnea Stensils, who often trains at the Gold Coast during European winter, joining online as well as Australian Paddle teammate and canoe slalom paddler Jessica Fox and her sister Noemie Fox also keen to join.

“I joined one of Cat’s sessions after she had been doing it for a few weeks – I reached out to her and asked if I could crash the sprint party! It was really nice to connect with them on zoom and do a Pilates workout together,” Jess Fox said.

“It was nice to see everyone’s happy faces and catch up over the internet from our lounge rooms and yoga mats!

"Unfortunately, we don’t spend a whole lot of time together as we are based in different states and our sports are competing in different places so it’s usually at the Paddle Australia Awards, or inductions that we catch up.  So It was nice to do a session together online in this way,” Fox added, who like McArthur is a Pilates fan.

 

“I knew Cat was a physio and had seen on social media that she was also doing Pilates classes.  It’s good to work on the smaller muscles, slow it down and focus on technique, breath work and activation.  Pilates/prehab work is one of those sessions I find hard to do by myself and enjoy a class or team environment to do it, so from that perspective it was great to have the video class with Cat and the sprint girls and it would be cool to continue,” Fox said.

McArthur, who is also working with one of the members of the men’s kayak team at her work, hopes she has inspired more of the team to continue including Pilates in their post-COVID work outs.

“I think anyone who has given Pilates a go, can appreciate the benefit it has in learning how to move our bodies in an efficient way.  It helps to align the body in regards to mobility, strength and flexibility, which in turn prepares your body to operate exactly how you would like it to when you are in the boat.  It has a great role in preventative therapy to reduce the risk of injury,” McArthur explained.

But she was also quick to add that she was not there to replace the team’s brilliant physios, who will re-join the team, when more formal training routines will start again from July.

“I wanted the benefit to be purely social and team building.  I came out initially and told my team mates that I wasn’t here to be their physio or step on the toes of their current support system, but to just provide a basic level activation and mobility exercises beneficial to the general population,” McArthur said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Lucky to have the time (and access) to do more of this right now 🙏

A post shared by Cat McArthur (@catmcarthur_3892) on


Nevertheless, she enjoyed sharing her knowledge with the team and took a lot away from it – including lots of fun and laughs.

“Pilates can often be a nice way to end the week and re-set for the following week.  Not even to mention the required attention our bodies needed with little access to our usual physio and massage, and our curious nature of trying other sports that we are not built for,” McArthur laughed, referring to some of the side-effects cross training including home gym, mountain biking, running, climbing, cycling and other things had brought about for the paddlers during lockdown.

And of course the banter made it even more fun.

“Getting all the girls on the screen and seeing how warmly dressed some were, e.g. our SA and WA athletes, versus our ‘singlet and shorts’ attire on the Gold Coast was as simple as it had to be.  Handing out banter to some athletes about the room in which they tuned in to, to pointing out who was the most flexible, to who did the weirdest bit of cross training that week, to who baked the most cakes – that was what it was all about,” McArthur said.

About the take-aways she added, “I gained a lot of confidence getting to take the girls through the sessions.  My skillset in the kayak isn’t hidden and is known to the world, however, I have felt I have been able to hide and keep my professional life quiet, so coming out and showing the girls some of what I do was quite daunting to say the least.  

But of course, they were troopers! Even when I mixed up my left and rights, they were there to make jokes, not judge.  I love them!  Even though they don’t always listen to instructions and flexibility is not a strong point,” McArthur laughed.

And will the sessions continue building their global reach?

 

“It was so awesome to have Jess and Linnea reach out after some of the posts I made on social media.  Asking to join in was a real confidence booster and we love having others join in! The more the merrier, right?!” McArthur laughed.

A sentiment echoed by Reynolds, who spent her isolated training sessions listening to many podcasts and baked a lot of banana bread over the last couple of months, but found the connection through Zoom very valuable.

“Even after COVID and our kayaking career, finding the way to connect through these mediums is a nice way to stay in touch with geographically distant friends.”

To zoom or not to zoom, might only be one of the questions moving into post-COVID-times, but there are many more learnings and positives to take away from the last couple of months, which will be worthwhile remembering as we move into the ‘new normal’.

“I have discovered that we all have a lot more resources already available to us than we think.  We are incredibly resourceful humans and we are also driven athletes, so if we believe that there is something out there that is missing and something that would add value to our lives, then we find it,” McArthur said.

“Whether it be a form of weight to make our home gym session heavier and harder, a Zoom call to allow us to feel social, or a teammate who is a physio to help us get that peachy booty, we can find a way to get it done.”

Paddle Australia

Peak sports bodies commit to National Redress Scheme process

Submitted by admin on Wed, 06/17/2020 - 08:25
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The AOC and Minister for Families and Social Services Anne Ruston have welcomed a joint initiative with the National Redress Scheme that will see sports engaging with the Scheme through the onboarding process and committing to work towards full participation in the Scheme...

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The initiative is supported by Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA) and Paralympics Australia (PA).

The AOC has already submitted documentation to join the Scheme, as has Paralympics Australia, while Commonwealth Games Australia is moving towards the commencement of the onboarding process.

Senator Ruston says she welcomes the commitment of the sports to ensure survivors who have come forward have access to the redress which they deserve.

“The AOC has shown considerable leadership among sport on this issue, working with government and member organisations to make sure sports join the Scheme in the interests of survivors,” she said.

“I would also like to acknowledge Commonwealth Games Australia and Paralympics Australia for their commitment to the Scheme,” Senator Ruston said.

The Redress Scheme Governance Board, made up of Commonwealth, state and territory ministers with responsibility for the Scheme, recently approved measures reflecting the time it can take to complete the on-boarding process and the impact on institutions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Consequently, individual sports will need to declare intent to join the Scheme by commencing the on-boarding training process and making a statement of intent to join by no later than 30 June 2020.

AOC Chief Executive Officer Matt Carroll has thanked the Minister on behalf of the Olympic sports for the recognition of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) and our Member Sports commitment to the intent of the Scheme and a willingness to work together to find a viable mechanism for sporting organisations to join by December 31.

“The aims of AOC and the Member Sports remain to ensure the Scheme can be configured in a way that allows the sports to participate in a sustainable manner and ensures that full and appropriate redress is available to all people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse.

“There has never been any doubt about the good intentions of our family of sports to assist those who have suffered sexual abuse.

“The AOC appreciates the government has recognised the unique challenges faced by many of our sports, which have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. Financially they are challenged, nevertheless they are committed,“ Mr Carroll said.

PA Chief Executive Officer Lynne Anderson says Paralympic Australia has commenced the onboarding process with the intention to join the scheme.

“We appreciate that the Government has been sympathetic to the issues raised and we have been able to create the opportunity for sports to be in a position to genuinely assist those who have suffered.

"We look forward to undertaking the on-boarding process and working with Senator Ruston and the Department of Social Services to identify a suitable financial mechanism that will allow our organisation to participate in the scheme," Ms Anderson said.

CGA Chief Executive Officer Craig Phillips says by signing a statement of intent, sports are demonstrating their willingness to engage with the Scheme.

“The National Redress Scheme is an important avenue of acknowledgement and support for those who have been victims of abuse. There now exists an avenue to take this forward,” Mr Phillips concluded.

The National Redress Scheme will continue to engage with the sports to ensure they have all the relevant information to arrive at the appropriate financial and structural arrangements to participate in the scheme.

Expectations the rule for Katarina Kowplos

Submitted by admin on Tue, 06/16/2020 - 08:49
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Katarina has a break - Shooting Australia
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Shooter Katarina Kowplos wasn’t supposed to be going to the Tokyo Olympic Games.

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Kowplos, 18, had split Year 12 at Golden Grove High School across two years, she was enjoying working part-time at the insert department at The Advertiser newspaper in Adelaide, and was aiming to be accepted into an engineering university degree next year.

The 2024 Paris Olympics was her target. Tokyo Olympics? That was supposed to be a TV event where she would happily cheer on the Australian Olympic team.


In reality, Kowplos still had her shooting learner’s plates on at the beginning of the year.

In 2018 and 2019, she contested the 10m Air Rifle at Junior World Cup events in Suhl, Germany, and her only international 3 Positions competition was at the Oceania Championship in Sydney last year where she finished 13th as a member of the Australia B team.

But in the space of two events in February and March – the first two 3 Positions rifle Olympic nomination trials – that all quickly changed.

Back to back qualifying scores of 1141 and 1143 points – a personal best performance – saw Kowplos go from an Olympic team outsider to a team selection favourite when she opened a commanding lead on the event nomination scoreboard.

“I was 100 percent looking towards Paris. I didn’t expect to shoot really well. I just wanted to shoot my best and I was really pleasantly surprised how I competed,” Kowplos said.

“I was trying to keep my excitement (of possible Olympic selection) down because I thought we wouldn’t be having a female 3P shooter for Tokyo. I was excited but was keeping it in."

She admitted she was shocked when Shooting Australia’s National Rifle Coach, Petr Kurka, telephoned her to notify her of her Olympic team nomination after the four nomination events had concluded.

“I was not expecting it all. I was pretty stunned. I kept it (her excitement) in until after the phone call and I casually went up to my Mum and said, ‘guess I will have to start training for Tokyo’,” she recalled.

 

Keeping her Olympic selection a secret from friends until the official Australian Olympic Committee announcement was a challenge. Only her mum and dad, Natalie and Steve, and younger sister Isabella knew.

What makes Kowplos’ Olympic selection even more meritorious is that she achieved her results with a borrowed rifle. More often, rifles are custom made to suit the athlete’s personal preferences. Having to adjust to someone else’s rifle makes a precision sport such as shooting even more difficult.

Shooting Australia’s National Talent Coach, Sydney 2000 Olympian, Carrie Quigley, located the only available left-handed rifle in Adelaide suitable for 3 Positions events and Kowplos immediately applied herself to handle the rifle’s characteristics.

“I don’t think I would have been able to shoot 3P without it because it’s such an investment to shoot 3P,” said Kowplos.

But since her selection for the Tokyo Olympics next year, her grandmother Lyn Violi, has assisted her grand-daughter with the purchase of a new rifle.

While the rifle is sitting securely and unused in her gun safe, she is waiting on the delivery of rifle accessories to complete her custom set.

“I’m looking forward to building up my equipment. With my old one, I couldn’t buy butt plates because they’re not transferrable across rifles. Now that I have one, I’m looking forward to building a really big bucket for finals to change over with,” she said.

Her introduction to shooting came via an unusual passage - the Northridge Para Vista Scout Group.

“They do a target shooting program. I enjoyed beating scouts that were older than me,” she said with a smile.
 

 

When she was not attending jamborees in Maryborough in Queensland or in Cataract Park in NSW, Kowplos would shoot at the SSAA Para Branch range and decided to move to ISSF events in 2015 with the view to hopefully one day win Olympic selection.

While she has limited experience with 3P shooting, the event has quickly become her favourite compared to Air Rifle.

“I think 3P (is my favourite) because a bad shot doesn’t necessarily mean that your entire match is over. You can shoot a nine or an eight and it is just as likely that another competitor could have shot that shot,” she explained.

For Kowplos, the postponement of the Tokyo Games until next year was a “relief”.

“It gives us a lot more extra time to train, especially since I didn’t expect to be shooting 3P internationally this soon. I’m looking forward to be able to hone my skills with the extra time,” she said.

With support from Kurka, Shooting Australia and the South Australian Institute of Sport, Kowplos will focus the next 14 months on mastering her technique across the three shooting positions, including watching YouTube videos while kneeling, and learning how to keep calm and composed while in the hurly-burly of an Olympic competition.

Apart from her part-time job and educational journey, Kowplos will continue to attend scouts, when time permits, and participate in the science fair at the Royal Adelaide Show. “I’ve won the last four years in my age group. It’s good to be able to talk about something you love,” she said.

Kowplos has not set any lofty targets for the Tokyo Games. “I’m looking forward to meeting the other athletes from other competitions and shooting my best on the day."

However, as she has already demonstrated, she has a habit of exceeding expectations and the Tokyo Olympics may not be an exception.

Shooting Australia
Greg Campbell

AOC welcomes new high performance funding by the Federal Government

Submitted by admin on Sun, 06/14/2020 - 07:00
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AOC welcomes high performance funding from Federal Government
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The AOC has welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement of a $50.6 million injection into high performance funding over the next two years.

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AOC President John Coates has thanked Minister for Youth and Sport Richard Colbeck for the funding which will assist athletes through the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Beijing 2022 Winter Games and through to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, also in 2022.

“This is great news! This is the certainty that our Olympic athletes and sports were looking for as they pick up the pandemic pieces and resume training for the Tokyo Games next year.

“It’s on their behalf that we thank the Government for its response to the 3 Point Plan for funding that Australian Olympic Committee submitted in partnership with Commonwealth Games Australia and Paralympics Australia.

Mr Coates says the funding injection will allow sports to secure the employment of high performance staff and support services for our athletes, thereby ensuring competitive Australian Teams for the Games ahead.

“This has been a period of great uncertainty and anguish for athletes. The first part of the equation was addressed when the IOC and our Tokyo friends agreed on postponing the Games by one year.

“What this does is address the other part of the problem for our athletes and their sports by ensuring that they can leave no stone unturned in pursuing the best possible preparation.

“There are a lot of relieved athletes and sports administrators out there today,” Mr Coates said.

Mr Coates also congratulated Olympic Winter Institute of Australia (OWIA) Chair Geoff Henke AO, for his considerable efforts in securing an additional $800,000 for the enhancement of winter acrobatic training facilities around Australia, including the soon-to-be-opened international water ramp facility in Brisbane.

“Again, I welcome the Federal Government’s commitment to our winter sports athletes. It’s a great credit to Geoff Henke who has worked tirelessly to ensure funding could be found to further develop Australia’s stature in Winter Olympic sports,” Mr Coates concluded.

Barber and Starc take out 2019 Female & Male Athlete of the Year at Athletics Australia Awards

Submitted by admin on Fri, 06/12/2020 - 09:38
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Doha 2019 World Athletics Championship javelin gold medallist, Kelsey-Lee Barber and Birmingham Diamond League winner, Brandon Starc have headlined the 2019 Athletics Australia Awards, taking out Female and Male Athlete of the Year respectively.

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Kelsey-Lee Barber - 2019 Female Athlete of the Year

After becoming the National and Area Javelin Champion then going on to become first Australian to ever win javelin gold at a global competition, Barber was awarded the 2019 Female Athlete of the Year Award.

And Kelsey-Lee wasn't the only Barber to take home an award, with husband and coach Mike Barber claiming 2019 Coach of the Year.

 

Brandon Starc - 2019 Male Athlete of the Year

After a stellar 2018, Brandon continued his success in 2019; winning the Birmingham Diamond League, finishing second at the Zurich Diamond League and clearing 2.30m three times in the year including when taking the sixth spot in the high jump final in Doha.


Bendere Oboya - Junior Female Athlete of the Year 

Oboya won the 400m at the 2019 senior national championship, also taking gold the 400m at the Oceania Championships before displaying her prodigious talent in reaching the semi-finals of the 400m in the senior World Championships.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Congratulations Bendere Oboya on being selected as the 2019 Junior Female Athlete Of The Year! #AAawards @commgamesaus

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Ashley Moloney - Junior Male Athlete of the Year

At 19 he is hard to be considered a junior athlete because of the stamp he has already made on the world decathlete stage. In 2019 won the Oceania Championships and finished 13th at the 45th Hypo-Meeting (Gotzis).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Congratulations Ash Moloney on being selected as the 2019 Male Junior Athlete Of The Year! #AAawards @commgamesaus

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You can find the full list of award winners HERE

Athletics Australia

Olympics Unleashed celebrates 300th New South Wales school

Submitted by admin on Thu, 06/11/2020 - 08:21
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Jaime Roberts Olympics Unleashed
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Dubbo’s School of Distance Education has become the 300th school in New South Wales to participate in Olympics Unleashed, presented by Optus, following an inspiring virtual visit by kayaker Jaime Roberts.

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Twenty students participating in the school’s first-ever “Virtual Residential” camp heard from Jaime on Wednesday evening on how to find their passion and unleash their individual potential. 

Jaime, a qualified mining engineer, teacher and fitness instructor, has been selected to make her Olympic debut in Tokyo next year in canoe sprint. 

More than 36 000 students from across the state have had Olympians and athletes aspiring for Tokyo 2020 share their experiences, with digital streaming now replacing in-person classroom visits due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

 

AOC CEO Matt Carroll said reaching the 300-school milestone in NSW was testament to the core of Olympics Unleashed, providing teachers with the opportunity to connect their students with Olympians.

“As students and athletes alike adapt to the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, Olympians’ message of resilience, perseverance and teamwork is more important than ever,” Mr Carroll said.

“Reaching 300 schools means more than 36 000 students across the state have heard directly from Olympians, messages that go beyond sport – stories of overcoming challenges, learning how to get back up when you’ve been knocked down, and finding a passion that can drive you.

“This message is helping young Australians to be the best they can– whether that’s in the classroom, the playground, the sporting field or at home.

“The AOC thanks the NSW Government and the support of Premier Berejiklian for making the delivery of the program into all NSW schools possible, so Olympians can connect with and make a real difference for these young people at a decisive time. Through the support of Optus and governments in Queensland, South Australia and the ACT, Olympics Unleashed is well on the way to going national,” Mr Carroll said.

“It was fitting to reach this milestone at Dubbo’s School of Distance Education, as Olympics Unleashed aims to reach as many schools across the country as possible, to connect Olympians with students from cities to regional areas and now in digital classrooms.”

The NSW Minister for Education and Early Childhood Sarah Mitchell said she was thrilled the 300th school visit for Olympics Unleashed was in regional NSW and happy so many students have benefitted from the program so far.

 

“The opportunity for our students to meet Olympians is one they will never forget, particularly in regional NSW where sport is such an important part of so many communities,” Ms Mitchell said.

“I’m grateful that during this time Olympics Unleashed has practiced what it teaches, through resilience and perseverance continuing to help students across NSW be the best they can be.”

Since starting in Olympics Unleashed program, kayaker Jaime Roberts has experienced massive highs and lows – from being selected in March to make her Olympic debut in Tokyo, to the Games’ delay and being separated from her teammates, coaches and regular training facilities due to COVID-19.

“Speaking with the students was so good, it’s great to share my journey and hear directly from them about their own goals, challenges and experiences” Roberts said.

“The big changes we’re going through really reinforce the key message I want to leave with students. It’s so important to control what you can control, and let go of what you can’t, and if you apply yourself you can achieve goals, no matter how big they might seem.

“I can’t control our training environment or the delay, but I can control my attitude and how I apply myself to training.

“There are some fundamental skills I’ve found through sport and education that can help students’ no matter what their interests are – if you set yourself some goals, commit yourself, come with a good attitude, and surround yourself with people who can help you reach it, there are no limits to what you can achieve.”

While remote learning may not be new for the students, who were beaming in from Broken Hill to Gwabegar, they are still adapting to changes in the current environment. The students exchanged in-person activities of their traditional residential camp with digital connection at their first ever Virtual Residential.

Karin Morgan, Head Teacher PDHPE at Dubbo School of Distance Education, said Jaime’s visit had inspired her students.

"Jaime's presentation to our students was amazing - she encouraged our students to dream big and to set goals at school and in life, not limits,” Ms Morgan said. “Her message about never giving up, even when you face big barriers was excellent. 

 

“The brain breaks she used within her presentation really focused the students and she was very generous with her time for questions after the presentation had finished. Jaime has inspired our students to overcome their own hurdles and to "be the best, but to enjoy it the most".

Olympics Unleashed has seen more than 130,000 students in over 900 schools around Australia hear directly from Olympians and athletes aspiring for Tokyo 2020, with schools across NSW, ACT, Queensland and South Australia able to register for digital visits now.

Optus Managing Director Marketing and Revenue Matt Williams said transitioning to online visits allowed the Olympics Unleashed messages to continue to inspire students at an important time.

“We are delighted to see Olympics Unleashed go online, as it is imperative these types of role models are visible to Australian school kids,” Mr Williams said.

“There is no doubt we are looking forward to seeing our Australian athletes compete on the world stage at the Tokyo Olympics, but we’re equally as excited to see the Olympics Unleashed inspire the next generation and change the future they see.”

Olympics Unleashed online visits have commenced in NSW and the ACT, with online visits rolling out in coming weeks in Queensland and South Australia. The program is free for schools thanks to support from presenting partner Optus, state governments and the AOC and available for schools right across each state and territory. 

Find out more and register for a visit at www.olympicsunleashed.com.au 

Sergei Evglevski stepping out of the shadows and into the spotlight

Submitted by admin on Wed, 06/10/2020 - 12:16
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Sergei shoots at SISC - Shooting Australia
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Sergei Evglevski’s family is a big name in the world of shooting. 

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His bloodlines are shooting royalty. He is the son of an Olympic bronze medallist and a six-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist, and a two-time Australian Olympic team gunsmith.

You can find what his mother Lalita Yauhleuskaya and father Sergei Evglevski Snr don’t know about shooting on the back of a postage stamp. 

If there was anyone destined to follow them in the world of shooting, then it was a young Sergei.

“I was always really interested in it. My parents could tell from a young age,” he said.

As a child he would join his mother on the medal podium at events in Australia and proudly take her medals to school to show off to his mates. Her three gold and one silver medal won at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games earned him special privileges when in primary school.

“I remember having the whole day off as the principal asked me to go to every classroom and pass around the Commonwealth Games medals. That was pretty grouse,” he proudly recalled.
 

 

Taking her Sydney 2000 Olympic Games 25m Pistol bronze medal, when representing Belarus, to school took some convincing, but eventually she relented.

Sergei’s own international shooting career commenced in 2015 when competing in the Junior World Cup in Germany. The die was cast. A year later, he earned Junior World Cup silver and bronze medals in Germany and Azerbaijan. An international shooting career was truly launched.

In 2018, he was a regular on the senior World Cup circuit competing in Germany, Mexico and Korea. As he aimed to carve out his own career, his parents offered some sage advice.

“They told me not to listen to anyone. A lot of the (international) coaches now were shooters with mum,” he said. 

“I didn’t realise it was going to be true, but a lot of people would come up to me and say you’re the son of Lalita and Sergei and I hope you shoot as good as them. It would give me that extra pressure. They (my parents) told me to acknowledge it, but don’t pay any attention to it.”

In a rare honour in any field of sport, he and his mother were Australian team-mates at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. 

It was the last of Lalita’s five Commonwealth Games appearances and Sergei’s first. He won a silver medal in the 25m Rapid Fire Pistol while she was unplaced in the 25m Sports Pistol final. Lalita was bursting with pride as Sergei claimed a podium finish. On this day, Sergei was much more than just a team-mate. He was flesh and blood.

“She was bawling her eyes out. My first thought when she started crying was ‘oh no, I only got a silver medal. That’s why she was crying’. That was my competitive side coming out. But she was crying with joy and being so proud of me,” he said.

“We went to a Channel Seven interview and she couldn’t speak. She was tearing up. She was saying ‘I’m so happy for him.’ It was pretty emotional, and I started tearing up as well.”

Sergei is grateful for his Commonwealth Games experience as it provided him with a high level of understanding of being part of a major, multi-sport competition such as the Olympic Games.
 

 

“It definitely prepared me because I was able to dip my toe in the water and now, I can dive in,” he said.
After the Gold Coast Games, Lalita announced her retirement. Forty years of high-level competition led to debilitating elbow and back problems which only firing the chamber for the last time could heal. 

Lalita enjoyed a 20-year, five Olympics association – two for Belarus and three for Australia – and Sergei will head to his first Olympics in Tokyo next year. The family’s Olympic handover is now complete, and the Games dynasty is set to continue for decades to come.

Sergei enjoyed a consistent, high-performing Olympic nomination event series registering four consecutive qualifying scores of 580 and over to comfortably secure Australia’s single Rapid Fire Pistol quota position.

He equalled his personal best qualifying score of 584 in the last qualifying event in Sydney – a score which would have been good enough to reach the top six final at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

“I did perform well, and I was happy with myself. But there’s always so much to improve on. There’s always little things you can do,” he said.

“I feel as though I’ve only done half the job because the goal for me is to perform at the Olympics to the best of my ability. Making the team was a short-term goal, but I so proud of myself because I had the goal to perform under the pressure,” he added.

With over 12 months until the Olympics, Sergei is focusing on training and completing the final three units for his marketing degree at Victoria University.

Assisting him in his Tokyo preparation has been the Victorian Institute of Sport (VIS) where he has access to strength and conditioning experts, sports psychologists and nutritionists.

The VIS strength program is presently focusing on better posture when shooting and the ability to hold his posture for a longer amount of time. 

“If you have an air pistol match for two hours, can you start slouching and your neck can start bending so you want to hold that posture for long periods of time,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented Sergei from shooting at his home club, Yarra Pistol Club. But when restrictions are fully lifted, he will be training for 2-3 hours a day under the watchful eye of national pistol coach, Vladimir Galiabovitch.

He realises the standard of the Olympic competition will be high, but he knows he has the talent and technical ability to compete with the world’s best on the biggest international sports stage. He says his biggest challenge will be to be fully mentally focused and to complete a full match without any mistakes or regrets.

However, a medal in Tokyo is not his primary focus.

“The goal I’ve set for myself is to prove to people and the whole shooting world, not just to be Lalita’s son but being my own shooter,” he said.

He is already well down the road to being his own world-class shooter and maybe, in years to come, Lalita Yauhleuskaya will be known as Sergei Evglevski’s mother.

Greg Campbell
Shooting Australia