Pierre de Coubertin award turns 25!
16 June 2017
EDUCATION: For 25 years, the Australian Olympic Committee has awarded outstanding secondary students with the Pierre de Coubertin award, an accolade that acknowledges displays of the Olympic ideals - fair play and sportsmanship.
2017 was no different, with 70 New South Wales Year 11 and 12 students being presented with the award and participating in an Olympic Academy day at the University of Technology, Sydney on Friday.
The annual award recognises students who are active participants in sport and demonstrate the ideals of the Olympic movement, and no recipient was more deserving than triple Paralympic Gold Medallist, Maddison Elliot.
Swimming in the S8 category, Elliot became the youngest Australian Paralympic medallist in Australian history at the London 2012 Games by winning bronze medals in the women's 400 m and 100 m freestyle events.
“It was unreal to get to the Paralympics in London and even more unreal to come out with a medal,” said Elliot who was only 13-years-old when she took to the blocks at London 2012.
“That memory [of winning a medal] will stick with me forever.”
The Year 12 student at Bishop Tyrrell Anglican College in Gillieston Heights went on to claim three gold and two silver medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.
“Rio was a completely different experience, I was a lot more experienced,” Elliott said.
“It is definitely special winning this award and nice to be able to meet students from different schools and in particular different sports.
“I’m sure my school will be very happy to show it off.”
Joyce Liang, a Year 12 student at Sefton High School, dreams of going to the Olympic Games in her sport of European Beach Handball, a sport that features on the 2018 Youth Olympic Games programme.
“We’re trying to get our team into the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires which would be amazing,” said Liang who is a member of the U17 Australian Women’s Beach Team.
Liang and the Aussie team recently claimed a silver medal at the Oceania Championships, qualifying for the World Championships in Mauritius in July.
Today’s Olympic Academy was eye-opening for Liang and a true insight into what it takes to qualify for the Olympic Games.
“Today’s session really taught me that some roads to the Olympic Games are really long journeys.
“These athletes showed me you really need the will and courage to chase your sporting dreams.”
For Ravenswood student Amelia Hoisie, it was exciting to hear three different journeys to the Olympics, from both winter and summer athletes.
“It’s so cool hearing all of these stories,” Hoisie said, who swims at Ravenswood, under the same coaches who train dual Olympian James Magnusseun
“I have heard Matt Abood speak before at a swimming dinner, it is always so inspiring and makes you want to get in the pool and train.”
The Year 12 student won the award for her dedication to swimming, training 12 hours a week on top of her HSC commitments, as well as her literary piece on the Refugee team at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
“The historical first march of a Refugee team at the Rio Opening Ceremony was itself an incredibly moving moment.”
Hoisie wrote about one particular team member, Yusra Mardini who was forced to flee her homeland Syria due to civil war but overcome multiple difficulties to swim in the women’s 100m butterfly at the Rio Games.
“Yusra's journey reminds us not only to never take our privilege for granted but speaks for the millions worldwide whose potential and dreams remain oppressed by poverty or conflict,” Hoisie wrote.
“Until such time when we from developed nations act upon the Olympic ideals of peace compassion and solidarity to provide equal opportunity for all no matter their Opening Ceremony flag.”
In addition to receiving their awards, the students heard from three Olympians; Cameron Girdlestone, Mathew Abood and Stephanie Magiros.
Cameron Girdlestone re-lived his Rio 2016 race with students, who cheered on the Aussie men’s quad as they rowed to a silver medal.
For Girdlestone, who is a full-time teacher in Sydney, it was students that inspired him to get back in the boat and aim for the Rio Olympics after a break from the sport.
“It was students like the ones here today,” Girdlestone said when asked why he picked up an oar again.
“I thought if they can do it, I can do it. It was those students who were my inspiration.”
As well as the inspiring stories, Rio 2016 boxer Shelley Watts ran students through a boxing session focusing on specific skills and boxing techniques.
“All of the students were so enthusiastic and willing to give it a go, it was fantastic,” said Watts.
“It’s that attitude that proves why these kids were given the Pierre de Coubertin award – always being up for a challenge and understanding that the most important thing is just to try.”
All four athletes focused on the how the Australian Olympic Team A.S.P.I.R.E values (attitude, sportsmanship, pride, individual responsibility, respect and express yourself) can relate to the lives of all young Australians, in sport and in education.
Students were presented with their Pierre de Coubertin certificates by NSW Olympic Council President Helen Brownlee who started the award 25 years ago.