STATEMENTS ON INDULGENCE: London Olympic Games
Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (10:28): Australia sent 410 athletes to compete in 23 sports at the 2012 London Olympic Games held from 27 July to 12 August. Our medal haul was 35—seven gold, 16 silver and 12 bronze—below what we expected, yet impressive nonetheless. Australia's sailors excelled, grabbing three gold and four medals in total. The flag bearer for the opening ceremony was basketballer Lauren Jackson from Albury, just down the Olympic Highway from Wagga Wagga.
Pentathlete Edward Fernon, 24, grew up in Sydney but spent every school holidays at a friend's Yerong Creek farm and maintained strong ties to Wagga Wagga through uncles Paul and Vince Fernon and their families. Edward took part in London, finishing 27th overall. Triple gold medallist equestrian Andrew Hoy, 53, from Culcairn, participated in his seventh games.
The Olympic motto of 'Faster, higher, stronger', first suggested by a Dominican priest in the 19th century, was introduced in 1924 at the Paris games. At those games, Anthony William 'Nick' Winter from Marrar won a gold medal in hop, step and jump—his leap of 51 feet 1½ inches set a new world record. Born at Brocklesby in 1895, Winter came to Marrar at an early age with his parents, Andy and Sal, who played a prominent part in the early history of the village near where I spent my first four years of life. Winter was a daredevil, pulling off many crazy stunts in his youth before serving in the Australian Imperial Force in the Great War, later becoming a fireman and then an Olympic champion. He heads the pantheon of sporting greats who have called the Riverina home. For them the rolling hills and wattle trees of south-west New South Wales hold as much appeal as a sporting stadium filled with adoring fans.
The Riverina had sporting heroes before Nick Winter and has had many more since his day of glory in the French capital. Three such stars did the region proud at the recent London games. Adam Commens and Jade Close were coach and player respectively in the Australian women's hockey team, while Brad Kahlefeldt overcame a bout of bronchitis to run a creditable race in the triathlon. It was a gutsy effort from Brad, who is a superb competitor and a fine ambassador for his family, sport and country. The 33-year-old has obviously inherited some of his great attitude from his grandfather Brian Kahlefeldt, whose 2004 book 90 Minutes to Success is one of the best manuals to a good life I have ever read.
I have known Adam Commens for many years and vividly recall his entry into A-grade hockey on the grassed fields at Jubilee Park, Wagga Wagga, in 1989. Small in stature, he would have been all of 12 turning 13 at the time. Adam ran out for Junee alongside his father, Russell, who was the team's fearless full-back. My team, Harlequins, was doing our pre-game warm-up and listening to our captain Ross Martin talk about tactics. The next thing you know, Russell entered our huddle and asked if we would mind going easy in the skirmishes involving his young son. He ought to have known the other teams did not label us hackers for nothing. Harlequins had the reputation for toughness, for getting first use of the ball, whatever it took. Our team's enforcer, Greg White, angelically inquired of Russell, 'Which one is he?' Not that identification was necessary. Adam's youth made him a standout. 'That's him,' Russell responded, pointing to the diminutive lad dribbling the ball around as if it were connected to the end of his stick. Russell trotted off content that we would look after his young fellow and Greg then made it abundantly clear to the rest of us that if the boy wanted to play against men he would have to contend with whatever came his way. The bully was taken to start proceedings—that is how hockey games began in the good old days—and the ball shot straight across in Adam's direction. Then it happened. Greg being Greg, ran straight over the top of the rookie. In charged an incensed Russell and it was on: pushing, shoving, grappling, words being exchanged. It did not worry Greg. He loved it when the going got tough. He was a skilful player but very much no-nonsense. He revelled in the roughness; more often than not, he started it. Greg was as hard as there was in the competition at the time, which probably came from growing up alongside his hockey-playing brothers, Peter, Trevor and Mark. When the dust settled from the melee, Greg emerged with his trade-mark grin, Russell was still steaming, but had maintained the family honour by protecting his off-spring, and Adam simply brushed himself off, got up and played on. It was a baptism of fire but it showed the kid had courage and it was not long into the game that Adam demonstrated the wonderful stick work and ability which would later see him on the world stage. From memory, he scored three terrific goals from open play that day—a dashing debut—and finished full of running, relatively unscathed, despite competing against bigger, older opponents, and having survived his encounter with my good mate Greg. Adam won the admiration of all his opponents that afternoon—especially Greg White—and we all watched with close interest as his career developed and blossomed. His talent was mercurial and he was a regular in the top grade for Junee, which had not long reformed and which immediately became the dominant club, winning premiership after premiership in the late 1980s and early 1990s. While Junee, with Harold Norris, Brian Smith and others proving a class above, gave Harlequins, Lake Albert and Mustangs the run-around, Adam set his sights on higher honours. He made his goal the international arena and with commitment, determination and passion, as well as support from his parents Russell and Kerrie, Adam made the big time. In all Adam played 143 games for Australia scoring 20 goals with his finest achievements being a bronze medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympics and gold at the 1999 Champions Trophy in Brisbane. On 4 July 2007, he was named head coach of the Belgian national field hockey team and he guided that country to ninth place in the 2000 Beijing Olympics—that nation's first entry into the Olympic hockey tournament since 1976. Now 36, Adam took over as coach of the Australian women's team at the start of 2011 and immediately instilled his strict discipline and fitness regimes into the Hockeyroos players. Unfortunately, Australia narrowly missed making the semifinals at the London Games on goal difference—a solitary goal—with New Zealand sneaking in ahead of us. The Netherlands won the women's tournament and the gold medal, beating Argentina 2-0 in the final.
Wagga Wagga born Jade Close played her part, netting two goals for the Hockeyroos, the first in our 4 August 1-0 win against South Africa and the other in the 2-0 victory against China on 10 August, the win which gave Australia fifth place overall. It was great to have two locals involved in the hockey program and this has provided tremendous inspiration to all the boys and girls running around Wagga Wagga's Jubilee Park. Adam and Jade showed that anyone, even someone from a regional area, with natural talent mixed with perspiration and determination can accomplish anything. Given Adam's experience and Jade's youth—she is 24—there will be more in store from this wonderful Riverina duo. On behalf of the people of the electorate, I wish them both all the very best in their future endeavours.