Olympians shine at Australian Sailing Awards

Olympic medallists Tom Burton and Lisa Darmanin have taken top honours at the 2016 Australian Sailing Awards, held in Sydney on Saturday night, along with the entire record-breaking Australian Paralympic Sailing Team.

Tom Burton was named Male Sailor of the Year after winning Laser Olympic Gold in Rio in one of the most exciting and nail-biting final races of the Games. He sailed the race of his life, using tactical prowess to move up the standings into first place to claim Australia’s only gold medal of the 2016 Games.

“I’ve definitely watched it a few times,” Tom Burton said of his Rio 2016 medal race. “Most of the race I was in bronze medal position. I look back and think – how did that happen?!”

“Now that I have had time to think about the whole race, there were so many parts that needed to link together to make the result happen.

“No one has gone back to back gold in the Laser so that’s the goal. I’ve got my eye on Tokyo”, Tom said.

Leading into Rio, Burton won bronze at the 2015 World Championships, bronze at the 2015 Rio Test Event and gold at two World Cups in 2015. His finish at the top of the podium in Rio was the culmination of many years of hard work.

Female Sailor of the Year was awarded to Lisa Darmanin who, together with her cousin Jason Waterhouse, won the Silver medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in the Nacra 17 Class. Their success on the water was exceptional in this highly competitive class, which made its Olympic debut.

“The last four years have been amazing and Rio was incredible”, said Lisa.

“It’s been two months since I got home and I haven’t stopped talking about sailing to everyone. I am still reliving it over and over.

“I think we will be back in Tokyo 2020 aiming to win gold”, Lisa added.

The pair’s success built, winning the Rio Test Event and the Weymouth Sailing World Cup and finishing second at the 2015 World Championships. They won silver at the 2016 Miami Sailing World Cup and posted top five results in major events in the lead up to Rio.

The entire Australian Paralympic Sailing Team was awarded the Sailor of the Year with a Disability award. The six sailors together have been heralded as the most successful section of the Australian Paralympic team ever, with Australians winning medals in all three classes they contested.

Seven-time award winner Daniel Fitzgibbon spoke of his love of being a yachtsman and the competitive spirit that drove him and Liesl Tesch to win back-to-back Paralympic sailing Gold medals, “”I just love to get out there, stare my competitors in the eye and see who blinks first,” Fitzgibbons said.

With gold medals in the Sonar and SKUD18 classes and a silver medal in the 2.4mR at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, Australia was the leading nation at the event.

“Rio was a great experience,” 2.4 Silver medallist Matt Bugg said. “The last few days I really dominated the 2.4 fleet. The last day for me was firstly about winning a medal and then proving to my competition that I was the best. There was a little bit of disappointment to be so close to winning gold and to just miss out.”

The team won three medals at the 2015 Para World Sailing Championships in Melbourne and won the Nation’s Cup as the most successful country at that event for the second time in a row. Individually, the teams performed admirably in the lead up to Rio with medals at World Cups and Para World Sailing Championships.

In a highly competitive field of outstanding performances by our young sailors including World and Australian Championships, Youth Sailor of the Year was awarded to Western Australia’s Alistair Young who was crowned the 2016 ISAF Youth World Laser Radial Champion in Malaysia.

Nicole Douglass was recognised with the Sport Promotion Award for her tireless efforts in promoting sailing through her business, Adventures of a Sailor Girl. The multi-platform communications approach provides coverage of events that in turn generates great interest.

The Sport Professional Award was given to Katie Culbert, Program Manager for the Australian Sailing Team. Culbert has dedicated the last 15 years to developing the platform to enable Australia’s Olympic and Paralympic sailors to perform at their best. Her attention to detail has played a huge role in the Team’s success, including planning, budget development and management, equipment management (planning, purchasing, and maintenance), sports science & sports medicine management, managing program staff and operations planning and implementation.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Alistair Murray’s extensive contribution to sailing was recognised with Australian Sailing’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Murray was honoured with the award for the impact he has made on the sport over many decades. In 1976, Murray started a long relationship with Ronstan and just this year has seen him step down as Managing Director, a role he held for 19 years. His connection remains with the company as he takes over as Chairman and is part owner of the business.

President’s Award

The much anticipated President’s Award is given at the sole discretion of the Australian Sailing President, Matt Allen. The highly prestigious accolade was awarded to two-time Paralympic sailing gold medallist Liesl Tesch.

Tesch set a new standard alongside Dan Fitzgibbons in becoming the first crew to win back to back Paralympic gold medals – winning in both Rio 2016 and London 2012. Before taking up sailing, Tesch competed at five Paralympics, and won three Paralympic medals, in wheelchair basketball. She was the first woman in the world to play the sport professionally, and continues to support the development of women’s wheelchair basketball around the world.

Outside of her athletic career, Tesch is a high school teacher and is passionate about the benefits of creating sporting opportunities for people with disabilities. It is this passion that has seen her make a huge impact through Sport Matters, an organisation that she co-founded in 2011 alongside her long-time friend Jackie Lauff.

Sport Matters is dedicated to making a difference in people's lives using the power of sport as a tool for development in Australia, the Pacific, Asia and Africa. Using a rights-based approach Sport Matters combines sport and play with other non-sport outcomes to achieve specific development goals. These goals might be in the areas of health, education, economic development, disaster, peace and the environment and Sport Matters tailors solutions to meet community needs. 

Awards in the State Association Nominated Categories

Volunteer Award – Louise Hosie

Club of the Year – Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron

Official of the Year – Stephen Aulich

Instructor of the Year – Bob Cooper and Steve Hart (shared)

Coach of the Year – Michael Blackburn

The list of all finalists follows, and biographical information can be found here.

– Jane Gordon

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