The Olympic and Paralympic Games are almost upon us once again. In the swimming powerhouse that is the Sunshine Coast excitement is mounting for the many local athletes who will be pulling on the green and gold to represent us in Tokyo. The coast boasts one of the youngest member’s of the Olympic team, in Kaylee McKeown of the USC Spartans. At just 17 years old she has already set a world junior record and won a world championship silver metal in the 200-metre backstroke. I know we’re all looking forward to seeing her give her best on the biggest stage of all.
However, we also have a truly world-class community of swimmers with disability on the Sunshine Coast, and it shows in the terrific line-up of swimmers that we’ll be sending to the Paralympics. Liam Schluter is a familiar face on the Sunshine Coast, swimming every day at Kawana Waters. This is his second Paralympics since he appeared in Rio. Liam has been bringing home the medals for Australia in the Commonwealth Games and World Para Athletics Championships and will be a real prospect for S14 freestyle this August. ‘Swim fast and swim free’ is the motto of Katja Dedekind, who will also be heading to her second Paralympics after snaring a bronze medal in the 100 backstroke S13 in Rio. With gold in the Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships and four selections for the Australian national team to her name, Katja will definitely be one to watch in Tokyo.
Among our emerging new talents, Ruby Storm really stands out, having stormed home to medal in 10 separate events at the national championships, and smashed records at the 2018 para Pan Pac Trials. Another of the youngest dolphins is Keira Stephens. She’ll be travelling from the coast to only her third international event. She has a silver medal from the Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships in the women’s 100-metre breaststroke. I know that she will bring that experience to this year’s event. Keira’s fellow Spartan Benjamin Hance is in spectacular form, becoming the fastest S14 Australian in the men’s 100 backstroke and winning his first long course Australian title in April this year. Ben is keen to go even faster for Australia and the Sunshine Coast in Tokyo. He’ll be supported by USC Spartans and Dolphins coach Chris Mooney, now heading to his second Olympics in a row after 20 years of successful club coaching all over the world.
My family are fortunate enough to know many of these young athletes through our daughter Sarah. I know that they will do Australia proud. Congratulations to Kaylee, Katja, Ruby, Keira, Benjamin, Liam and Chris. From all of us, good luck and have fun. Sarah Wallace, set your sights on Paris.