by Greg Blood
Many Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) alumni have been inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame since 2000. To celebrate the AIS 40th anniversary on 26 January 2021, I am aiming to compile a list of the Best 40 AIS athletes to celebrate this important occasion.
Recently the Sport Australia Hall of Fame announced their 2020 inductees and this included five AIS athlete alumni – cyclist Cadel Evans, diver Matthew Mitcham, basketballer Lauren Jackson and water polo player Bridgette Gusterson. In addition, Wallaby John Eales was elevated to Legend status.
The AIS has previously announced its Best of the Best – with 24 members as of 2011. With the cessation of AIS sports scholarships in 2013, I thought it would be worthwhile to add to list and have a total of 40 athletes recognised.
Why stop my selection at 2013? AIS through Winning Edge no longer offered AIS sports scholarships as it handed the responsibility for high performance athlete development to national sports organisations. Prior to 2013, the AIS managed the daily training environment for around 700 athletes per year – coaching, training facilities and resources, sports medicine and science and education support. The AIS now funds national sports organisations to provide the daily training environment and supports athletes through dAIS grants, health and well-being and other support programs.
In my opinion, athletes since 2013 are not part of the ‘true’ AIS alumni, they are part of a national sports organisations’ alumni. Athletes who worn the logo below are only included in the list.
To help with compiling my list of 40 athletes, AIS alumni that are SAHOF Athlete Members will greatly assist in the selection process. I will also take into consideration AIS alumni that may not meet the SAHOF criteria – being retired for four years or had a high level of international success over a lengthy period.
To become inducted into SAHOF these days is a great deal more difficult as Australia has many champion athletes in a wider range of sports. For instance, when SAHOF was established in 1985 sports such as triathlon and aerial skiing were not significant sports. An Olympic or Paralympic gold medal no longer means automatic entry into SAHOF.
In the list below, brackets ( ) indicates the AIS scholarship period of an athlete and it should be noted that many athletes had broken scholarship periods within the period listed. In addition, some athletes were part of AIS development programs ie basketball, football, netball and others part of elite/development programs ie athletics, swimming, rowing, gymnastics .
SAHOF AIS – Athlete Members
Archery – Simon Fairweather OAM (1998-2004)
Diving – Matthew Mitcham OAM (2003-2006)
Football – Cheryl Salisbury (1998-2008)
Ice Racing – Steven Bradbury OAM (1999-2002)
Rowing – Kate Allen ( nee Slater) OAM (1991-1999), Andrew Cooper (1985-1988), Drew Ginn OAM (1995-1996), Megan Marcks (nee Still) OAM (1990-1996), Mike McKay OAM (1985-1987), James Tomkins OAM (1987-1988)
Sailing – Malcolm Page OAM (2002-2013)
Softball – Jocelyn Lester OAM (1993-1996)
Triathlon – Emma Snowsill OAM (2002-2012)
SAHOF AIS General Members – Coaches
I thought it would be worthwhile for this article to recognise those AIS coaches and administrators that have been inducted into SAHOF as General Members.
Athletics – Pat Clohessy AM AIS Distance Coach (1983-1994)
Cycling – Charlie Walsh OAM AIS Head Track Coach (1987-2000)
Hockey – Brian Glencross OAM AIS Women’s Head Coach (1984-1995)
Netball – Jill McIntosh AIS Assistant Coach (1990)
Sailing – Victor Kovalenko OAM AIS Head Coach (2001-2013)
Swimming – Terry Gathercole AM AIS Senior Coach (1986-1992)
SAHOF AIS General Members – Sports Scientists
John Bloomfield AO – Inaugural Deputy Chair, (1980-1985), Chair (1985-1989)
Dick Telford AM AIS Head of Physiology (1980-1994), AIS Distance Coach (1995-2005)-
SAHOF AIS General Members – Administrators
Kevin Gosper AO – Inaugural AIS Chair (1980-1985)
Don Talbot AO OBE – Inaugural AIS Director (1980-1983)
Hon Bob Ellicott AC Minister for Sport who established AIS (1978-1981)
Several SAHOF Athlete Members have been appointed AIS coaches post their playing careers.
David Bell OAM AIS Head Women’s Hockey Coach (1998-2005)
Richard Charlesworth AO AIS Head Women’s Hockey Coach (1995-2000), AIS Men’s Head Hockey Coach (2009-2014)
Margaret Caldow OAM BEM Assistant Coach Netball (1984-1985)
Michelle den Dekker (nee Fielke) OAM Assistant Coach Netball (1991)
Geoff Hunt AM MBE AIS Head Squash Coach (1985-2003)
Rod Marsh MBE AIS Cricket Academy Head Coach (1990-2001)
Heather McKay AO MBE AIS Senior Squash Coach (1985-1989, 1994-1998)
Do not hesitate to contact me if you have suggestions for the 40 Best AIS Athletes that I hope to publish around 26 January 2021.