World No. 1 Ash Barty has again captured the hearts of Australian sports fans, with the French Open champion claiming both People’s Choice categories at tonight’s AIS Sport Performance Awards (#ASPAs) in Sydney.
Almost 35,000 votes were cast for the ABC Sport Personality of the Year and Sporting Moment of the Year, with the Queenslander winning admiration for her fairplay, grace and humility, as well as her exceptional all-court game.
The 23-year old also took home the coveted Female Athlete of the Year award in recognition for her stellar achievements from the previous 12 months, in particular her maiden grand slam title.
“We are a sporting nation, we love it and it is in our blood so to receive the votes and the support from the public is amazing,” said Barty.
“It (French Open) was a highlight moment of the year, I really didn’t think I would get into that position, particularly at Roland Garros, I never thought that was my slam.
“That day in Paris for me was a perfect tennis match. I felt calm, I felt relaxed and I had no idea that I would feel like that or that I should feel like that but it was an incredible moment and the perfect tennis match that I could have played on that day.”
Almost 400 guests attended the black-tie gala event at The Star to celebrate the best of Australian high-performance sport. The AIS launched a new award, Athlete Community Engagement, to celebrate the positive influence an athlete can have on the community. Australian Opals captain Jenna O’Hea collected the trophy ahead of an impressive field for her work with Lifeline Australia raising awareness and fundraising for mental health and suicide prevention initiatives.
War veteran turned sporting star Curtis McGrath capped off an outstanding season to be named Male Para-athlete of the Year, while 2018 Winter Olympic Games flag-bearer Scotty James’s remarkable form on the slopes was recognised with the Male Athlete of the Year honour.
The future is looking bright for 17-year old Amy Lawton, named Emerging Athlete of the Year after scoring on debut for the Hockeyroos in their ANZAC day clash in New Zealand and will be one to watch ahead of Tokyo.
FULL LIST OF 2019 AIS SPORT PERFORMANCE AWARD WINNERS
The ABC Sport Personality of the Year (People’s Choice) – Ash Barty (Tennis) | While a big year had been predicted for Barty, this was truly momentous. The Queenslander’s breakthrough French Open singles triumph was the first by an Australian woman since Margaret Court in 1973; two weeks later the 23-year-old became the world No.1, joining a national honour roll completed by Evonne Goolagong Cawley, John Newcombe, Pat Rafter and Lleyton Hewitt.
Sporting Moment of the Year (People’s Choice) – Ash Barty (Tennis) | With clay her least favoured surface, the French Open was never Barty’s preferred major, yet the world No.8 progressed irresistibly through a wide-open draw to become Australia’s first singles champion at Roland Garros in 46 years. In her maiden grand slam singles final, the Queenslander dominated unseeded Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova 6-1, 6-3.
Male Athlete of the Year – Scotty James (Snowboard) | James enjoyed another exceptional snowboard season, winning every event he entered — including an unprecedented third consecutive halfpipe title at the FIS World Championships in Park City, Utah. A young veteran of 25, James finished the season with wins at The Dew Tour, X Games, US Grand Prix, Laax Open and the US Burton Open.
Female Athlete of the Year – Ash Barty (Tennis) | The Queenslander’s breakthrough French Open singles triumph was the first by an Australian woman since Margaret Court in 1973 and, two weeks later, the 23-year-old became just the nation’s fifth No.1 since rankings began. Top spot was where Barty would finish 2019, too, as the first Australian woman to do so, having earned four titles, including the prestigious season-ending WTA Finals in Shenzhen
Male Para-athlete of the Year – Curtis McGrath (Para-canoe) | McGrath lived up to expectations in 2019 by successfully defending his KL2 200m and VL3 200m world titles at the 2019 ICF Para-canoe World Championships in Hungary. The fact that these were his ninth and 10th consecutive world titles augur well for McGrath’s KL200 Paralympic gold medal defence in 2020, as the 31-year-old drew the curtain on 2019 with gold in the VL3 200m and silver in the KL200m at the Olympic test event in Tokyo.
Female Para-athlete of the Year – Melissa Perrine (Para-skiing) | A triple Paralympian and dual medallist from Pyeongchang in 2018, Perrine partnered with sighted guide Bobbi Kelly to deliver a stand-out international season. Together, they earned 12 medals on the Para Alpine World Cup Circuit competing in the B2 visually impaired category, while finishing second on the overall Para Alpine Standings for the year. At the 2019 Para-alpine World Championships in Slovenia, they won four medals — gold in the Super Combined, silver in the Giant Slalom and Super G, and a bronze in Slalom.
Emerging Athlete of the Year – Amy Lawton (Hockey) | Recognition comes early sometimes, and the national selectors had clearly identified a special talent when they chose the 17-year-old high school student to make her debut for the Hockeyroos in the Pacific leg of the FIH Pro League. Having scored a goal in that Anzac Day match in New Zealand, the VIS scholarship-holder was then selected for the Oceania Cup Olympic qualification event, and later played against Russia in Perth, where, in the opening match, Lawton continued an impressive run of scoring.
Athlete Community Engagement Award – Jenna O’Hea (Basketball) | The late-2018 suicide of her uncle took a huge toll on O’Hea’s family, but it was also the genesis of the WNBL’s “Lifeline Round”. In what will become an annual event, each three-point shot made by every team prompted a $100 donation that was matched by the league. The result: over $15,000 was donated to Lifeline Australia to assist in the training of crisis staff. Determined to raise suicide awareness and de-stigmatise mental health issues, O’Hea is also an AIS and Lifeline Community Custodian.
Coach of the Year Award – Michael Blackburn (Sailing) | As head coach of the Laser Class for the Australian Sailing Team, Blackburn leads a squad of five athletes, including Tokyo-bound soon-to-be Olympian Matt Wearn and celebrated Rio Olympic Laser gold medallist Tom Burton. Within a small group resides vast talent, though, for both Wearn and Burton’s results have been world-leading. At least one of the pair, who filled the top two placings at the 2019 world championships in a rare Australian quinella, has featured on the podium at the majority of international regattas over the past 12 months.
Award for Leadership – Lynne Anderson (Paralympics Australia) | As CEO of Paralympics Australia since 2015, Anderson has led a management team that has made significant progress addressing organisational reform, including rebuilding its financial strength and consolidating its position as Australia’s peak body for disability sport. Indeed, the beginning of a new era was hailed in 2019 with the rebranding of the organisation formerly known as the Australian Paralympic Committee
Sport Australia Award – Hockeyroos | Season one of hockey’s pro-league saw both our men’s and women’s teams enjoy success but it was one moment in a game between the Hockeyroos and Belgium that deserved celebration. Just before half-time, a goal was awarded to Australia with both the field referee and subsequent video referral in agreement, however Hockeyroo Emily Chalker admitted she did not touch the ball and forced the decision to be overturned, as there was no attacking touch in the scoring circle. Australia went on to lose the game but won the respect of the hockey community for displaying the true spirit of sport.
Team of the Year – Mat Belcher and Will Ryan (Sailing) | Belcher and Ryan continued to re-write the history books with another dominant year in the 470 Class to maintain their world No.1 ranking. At the 2019 Open 470 World Championship in Japan, Mat notched his eighth world title and Will his fifth in what was the pair’s fifth crown as a team — the most ever in the 470 class. The Rio Olympics silver medallists were pre-selected in the team for Tokyo 2020.
High Performance Program of the Year – Rowing Australia | Australia won 15 gold, 13 silver and nine bronze medals during the 2019 season, including world championship-winning performances from Lucy Stephan, Katrina Werry, Sarah Hawe and Olympia Aldersey in the Women’s Four in Austria, and from Kathryn Ross, who returned from a post-Rio break to win the Para PR2 Women’s Single sculls on the same course in August. Australia’s overall performances at the two 2019 World Cups delivered the coveted 2019 World Rowing Cup for the first time.