Swimming Sensation Emma McKeon crowned Gold Coast Sports Star of the Year
Photo by Swimming Australia Ltd.
Australia’s most decorated Olympian, the unassuming Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games-bound Gold Coast swimming superstar Emma McKeon, has been crowned the 2021 Gold Coast Sports Star of the Year.
The Covid-delayed 53rd annual award was presented this evening (Friday 8 July 2022) at a huge dinner event staged by the Gold Coast Sporting Hall of Fame and Sports Gold Coast at the RACV Royal Pines Resort.
The Gala was attended by over 500 luminaries from the Gold Coast’s sporting, business and political worlds.
The 28-year-old Michael Bohl protégé and four-time world record holder snared the Gold Coast’s highest sporting accolade – an award sponsored by Bond University – after becoming the first Australian ever to win four gold medals at a single Summer Olympics at last year’s delayed Tokyo 2020 edition.
That effort took the freestyle and butterfly specialist to a total haul of 11 Olympic medals, making her Australia’s all-time queen of Olympic bling.
To take the Sports Star Award for her first time, Emma had to overcome the might of a glittering field of challengers.
They included fellow Tokyo 2020 Olympic gold medallist, swimmer Chelsea Hodges and Bond University’s Jean Van der Westhuyzen and Tom Green who won the gold medal in the canoe K2 1000 metres, Australia’s most successful Olympic sailor Mat Belcher and park skateboard sensation Keegan Palmer.
Surf Lifesaving icon and 2021 Coolangatta Gold champion Ali Day was nominated after his seventh victory in the famous event and 2021 Repco Supercars Championship winner Shane van Gisbergen also found himself in the mix.
Emma couldn’t be at the function but sent a heartfelt acceptance video from her Birmingham 2022 training camp in Spain.
“I’ve had access to some great facilities on the Gold Coast, such as the Gold Coast Aquatic Centre, for the past five years and there’s no doubt they have contributed enormously to the success I’ve had internationally during that time,” she said.
“I am very grateful for all the support the Gold Coast has given me,” she said.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games BMX gold medallist and Sports Star nominee Logan Martin didn’t go home empty handed after a ‘captain’s pick’ by Mayor Tom Tate saw him take away the 2021 City of Gold Coast Mayor’s Award.
Meanwhile the Her Medical 2021 Para-Sport Star of the Year Award is in the capable and experienced hands of canoe sensation Curtis McGrath who has taken the accolade an unprecedented five times in a row.
The evergreen McGrath made history last year by becoming the first para-canoeist to win two gold medals at a Paralympic Games.
He successfully defended his KL2 Paralympic title before again standing atop the podium after powering to victory in the newly introduced 200m VL3.
And like McKeon, he had to edge out a class field which included fellow 2020 Paralympic canoeist Susan Seipel and gun Paralympic swimmers Thomas Gallagher and Madeleine McTernan.
The 2021 Hot Tomato People’s Choice Award was taken out by the Gold Coast Force Futsal men’s team that won the league and finals in the Football Queensland F-League 2021 – the highest level of futsal managed by Football Queensland.
Selfless Broadbeach Cats AFL Club member and Miami High student Braigh Agnew took home the 2021 Eximm Junior Sports Volunteer Award for his tireless deeds in umpiring and helping with coordination of last year’s schools Rugby 7s carnival.
The 2021 Gold Coast Bulletin Junior Sports Star Award was taken by one of the future superstars of Australian swimming, Flynn Southam.
At the age of 15 in 2021, the Bond University student won six Australian age gold medals and broke two national age records, including his own 100m freestyle time, just months after he beat the age record of famous Olympic gold medallist Kyle Chalmers.
Tribute on the night was also paid to three legends of Gold Coast sport who had recently passed in trailblazing sports administrators Daphne Pirie and Alan ‘Doc’ Mackenzie and Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds.
And it was a three-way tie for the 2021 Daphne Pirie MBE AO Spirit of Sport Medal after the judges couldn’t split a trio of outstanding nominees.
The medal is presented to local sports administrators in honour of Daphne with the winners typifying her life principals of hard work, fair play and a love of sport.
Dynamic husband and wife combo Barry and Colleen Gilbert were individually and collectively recognised for their efforts in transforming the Broadbeach Bowls Club from a debt-ridden club on the verge of a takeover in 2008 into the renowned establishment it is today, attracting bowlers from around the world.
The third deserved Pirie Medal winner was soccer mum, long-time Musgrave Hill F.C president Michelle Schultz, who is credited with the dramatic turning around of the soccer club that today leads in on and off-field diversity and inclusion.
A salute was also delivered on the night to the Gold Coast’s Magic Millions thoroughbred sales and raceday which have become solid mainstays of the Gold Coast’s major events calendar since their founding in 1986.
Sports Gold Coast Chairman Geoff Smith said the awards are unique in that they celebrate not only the achievements of our elite athletes but sport on all levels.
“The event is also iconic in that it was established in 1968 and is based on the collaboration by all major stakeholders in sport in our city, namely our council, universities, schools, business and sports clubs and associations,” Mr Smith said.
Gold Coast Sporting Hall of Fame Chair Trina Hockley AM said the awards have a rich history and are a critical foundation in the promotion and development of the Gold Coast as a world class destination with a world renowned and vibrant sporting culture.
“The 2021 athletes join an exemplary group of Gold Coast sports stars who have already taken their place of honour at the Gold Coast Sporting Hall of Fame,” she said.
The 2021 Gold Coast Sports Star of the Year is sponsored by RACV Royal Pines Resort, City of Gold Coast, Bond University, Her Medical, Eximm, WestFund Private Health Insurance, L&M Goldstar, Gold Coast Bulletin, Hutchinson Builders, 1029 Hot Tomato, MyGC and 7 News Gold Coast.