Pottharst recognised for outstanding commitment to sport, with Olympic post-nominals
19 March 2019
BEACH VOLLEYBALL: At Manly beach, three-time Olympic beach volleyballer Kerri Pottharst was one of several Olympians who received their Olympic post-nominals (OLY). Pottharst was recognised not only for her outstanding service to sport, but for her commitment to the health and fitness of future generations.
The Olympic gold medallist was honoured for her two-decade-long career, where she represented her country at Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004, while overcoming several hurdles along the way.
Born in South Australia, Pottharst began her Olympic career alongside beach volleyball partner, Natalie Cook, where the couple combined to win bronze for Australia at Atlanta 1996. Four years later, the dynamic duo improved on their Olympic result to win gold in front of a home crowd at Sydney 2000.
But Pottharst's road to gold wasn't easy, battling potential career ending injuries before her beach volleyball career had even begun. After starting her career in Indoor Volleyball, Pottharst transitioned to the beach as a way of protecting her knees, due to the softer surface of the sand. She had already undergone six knee surgeries and continued the rest of her playing career in some form of pain, but that didn't stop her pushing her body to the limit for her country.
"I was always playing through injuries. I ripped my knee really badly playing indoor volleyball for 10 years and I tried to make a comeback for indoor, but after a year I realised that it wasn’t going to be possible, so I switched to beach," Pottharst said.
"I realised I was quite good, so I found a new passion for beach volleyball and that’s when I made the Olympics. All through the three Olympics I was managing my knees trying to support one another.
"You learn to block out the pain and you need to have the passion for the game to be able to do that.”
The 52-year-old says having a strong team to support you is one of the most important factors of success, regardless of whether that be in sport or in the corporate world where she is now a motivational speaker and business owner.
"What I’ve learnt through sport you cannot get out of a book. You may not get that same support in the corporate world either," she said.
"In sport you have teams to support you who are all driving for the same goal, so resilience becomes a team work thing, relying on the team around you to help you get back up again.
"It’s really difficult if you're on your own or even in an individual sport – it’s harder than in a team sport.
"It’s not just resilience though. There are so many skills that I have learnt from playing elite sport for Australia for 22 years. There are so many lessons and I’m fortunate that I’ve turned those lessons into a career in motivational speaking and leading teams in my nutritional business. I draw on all those experiences to be successful in life after sport."
The two-time Olympic medallist said she was honoured to receive her OLY post-nominals, after dedicating a substantial portion of her life to the sport.
“It’s not about everyone who won a medal at the Olympics or anything like that, but recognising the people who have dedicated their lives to training full-time or part-time around work, to actually make it to the Olympics,” Pottharst said.
"I’m fortunate that I surround myself with successful sporting people, whether that’s with the AOC, AIS or commentating at the Olympics. I choose to be involved, but there are people who go to the Olympics and stop completely, so it’s especially important to remember all of their hard work.
“I hope that the athletes actually use these titles next to their name and are proud of it, like anyone who has worked hard in their professions to get a PHD or OBE, whatever it may be.”
Like the rest of the sporting community, Pottharst is passionate about increasing youth involvement in all sports.
“You can’t put a number on how important it is to play Olympic sports at grassroots levels. It’s so important to get the kids active, not only for the physical benefits, but for their mindset and mental health too.
“Getting them involved in team sports in particular, where they have to interact with others, means that some will step into leadership and some will be team supporters, but learning those skills will take them through life and into their careers,” Pottharst said.
She wants to instill in everyone, but in particular her 12-year-old son, that it is important to be active, and playing sports are a great way to learn important traits of life.
"Getting my 12-year-old off the screen is not easy sometimes, but he’s now very sporty because his parents are, so we have to be role models," she said.
"It’s something that I have taken very seriously since winning my medals. I feel like I have a responsibility to my sport, to women in sport and to sporting people to represent Olympism and represent teamwork – I take that very seriously and that’s a larger part as to why I’m still doing what I’m doing today.”