Olympic greats say a likely 2032 Queensland Games will help breed a new generation of Sunshine State sports stars.
Olympic greats say a likely 2032 Queensland Games will help breed a new generation of Sunshine State sports stars.

Stars reveal childhood fantasies that became Olympic reality

Olympic greats have recalled the childhood moment that inspired them to go for gold at the 'greatest show on earth', saying a likely 2032 Queensland Games will help breed a new generation of Sunshine State sports stars.

Cate Campbell, Natalie Cook, Samantha Riley and Sara Carrigan say children aged six to 10 now could be at the peak of their sporting powers in 11 years' time, preparing to live their own Olympic dreams on home soil.

They say that hosting the Games will not only motivate future Olympians, but also encourage grassroots sports participation.

Sydney Olympic beach volleyball champion Cook was a seven-year-old swimmer and nipper in her home town Townsville when she saw Lisa Curry win three gold medals at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane.

 

Swimmer Lisa Curry in 1980.
Swimmer Lisa Curry in 1980.

 

Lisa Curry won three gold medals at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. Photo Patrick Woods / Sunshine Coast Daily.
Lisa Curry won three gold medals at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. Photo Patrick Woods / Sunshine Coast Daily.

 

"That was when I decided I wanted to be like Lisa and go to the Olympics and win a gold medal for Australia," she said.

"It was the spark that lit the fire for me. I'd watch the Olympics on TV and dream of one day being on the world's biggest sporting stage.

"Talking to my Olympian friends all over the world, they all had one moment like that put that fire in their belly and sparkle in their eye."

 

Sydney Olympic beach volleyball champion Cook was a seven-year-old swimmer and nipper in her home town Townsville when she saw Lisa Curry win three gold medals.
Sydney Olympic beach volleyball champion Cook was a seven-year-old swimmer and nipper in her home town Townsville when she saw Lisa Curry win three gold medals.

 

Cook, who also won a bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, said a southeast Queensland Games would be a "huge driver" of kids' sport across the state and nation.

"Clearly COVID has put a massive dampener on sport but this (a potential home Olympics) will give kids something to dream of and aspire to," she said.

"Even if they're not potential 2032 Olympians, it's going to be a huge driver of sports participation which is great for kids not just physically, but also for making friends and encouraging teamwork."

 

Cate Campbell with her mum
Cate Campbell with her mum

 

 

 

Raised in Brisbane, Campbell was just eight years old and still living in her birth land of Africa when she was bitten by the Olympic bug.

Her family had already decided to move from landlocked Malawi to Australia so when they turned on their television set to watch the Sydney 2000 Olympics, she'd already decided to support her soon to be adopted home.

"There was something about watching an Olympics in my new home country that just inspired me to think that this is something I could do and this is something I wanted to do and it was something that was worthwhile to do," she said.

 

Star of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Cathy Freeman.
Star of the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Cathy Freeman.

 

"That's my little story of getting inspired by a home Olympic Games and I really believe that it has the ability to do the same for young people in Australia.

"Whenever I hear people talk about what it was like to be at the Sydney Olympics, it makes me really sad that I wasn't a part of it but I got a little bit of taste of what it's like when the Commonwealth Games were on the Gold Coast.

"To feel the atmosphere and the passion from everyone … it's such a uniting positive force."

 

Ian Thorpe at 5yrs.
Ian Thorpe at 5yrs.

 

Australian Olympic champion Ian Thorpe. Picture Gary Ramage
Australian Olympic champion Ian Thorpe. Picture Gary Ramage

 

Riley's first Olympics memory was watching the 1980 Moscow Games as an eight-year-old and being inspired not so much by the sport but by the spectacle.

"It was obviously one of the more controversial Olympics but I just remember the amazing spectacle and thought 'wouldn't it be great to be a part of that?'," she said.

She said watching former International Olympic Committee supremo Juan Antonio Samaranch famously announce 'Syd-n-ey' as the 2000 Olympics host was also a turning point.

 

Anna Meares at 7yrs on her 1st road bike.
Anna Meares at 7yrs on her 1st road bike.

 

Anna Meares dominated at the velodrome. Picture SARAH REED
Anna Meares dominated at the velodrome. Picture SARAH REED

 

"I was with some other swimmers in Canberra and it was one or two in the morning when the announcement was made," she said.

"We all decided that we'd be the first athletes to train for the Sydney Olympics so we went and jumped straight in the pool."

Riley, a mother of three boys aged 11 to 17, said a 2032 Queensland Olympics would give children "something really amazing to strive for".

 

Leisel Jones at 6mths having a sink bath.
Leisel Jones at 6mths having a sink bath.

 

Leisel Jones at the 2019 Sport Australian Hall of Fame red carpet. Picture: Jason Edwards
Leisel Jones at the 2019 Sport Australian Hall of Fame red carpet. Picture: Jason Edwards

 

"It's not as much about getting kids to the elite level as it is about encouraging them to stay in sport - it's all about participation and grassroots involvement," she said.

Carrigan, who won cycling gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said she didn't even know bike riding was a sport when she watched the 1992 Barcelona Games as a 12-year-old.

 

 

Olympic cyclist Sara Carrigan as a child.
Olympic cyclist Sara Carrigan as a child.

 

Sara Carrigan won gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Picture Mike Batterham
Sara Carrigan won gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Picture Mike Batterham

 

"I just remember seeing how proud and excited the athletes were and that's where my passion for sport started," she said.

"I think a Queensland Olympics will just help inspire passion in kids - whether it be in sport or other fields - and that's a great thing."

 

 

 

 

Cadel Evans plays on his bike as a child in Armidale.
Cadel Evans plays on his bike as a child in Armidale.

 

Cadel Evans, a two-time Olympian and Australia’s only winner of the Tour de France. Picture: Alan Barber
Cadel Evans, a two-time Olympian and Australia’s only winner of the Tour de France. Picture: Alan Barber

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Stars reveal childhood fantasies that became Olympic reality



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