Kayaker Noemie Fox, Blaxland High School, and hockey player Jade Close, a former Penrith junior now living in Perth, won the Junior and Senior Sports star of the year awards at the Penrith Valley Sports Foundation dinner at Panthers last night.
Other winners were:
Sports administrator of the year: Judith Sibbald (netball)
Multi disability award: Kate Murdoch (rowing)
Team of the Year: Under 14 Penrith Panthers (basketball)
Volunteer of the year: Gail McLeod Jones (soccer)
Coach of the Year: Curtis Sardi (basketball)
Referee/umpire of the year: Amber Fitzgerald (rugby league)
Jim Anderson Memorial Award: Ben Felton
Rising Star Award: Tahlia Tupea (basketball)
Guest speaker at the dinner, hosted by TV sports commentator Tim Webster, was swimmer Elka Whalan Graham who captivated the audience with her enthusiasm and inspiration.
She started swimming at age 6 and by age 9 set her sights on the top prize.
‘‘At schoool I felt awkward because I was too tall and the only place I felt at home was in the water,’’ she said.
At 17 she saw the Sydney Olympics ahead and committed herself to make the team.
But the road wasn’t without its pitfalls and disappointments.
She searched for 150 of her favourite inspirational quotes and scattered them around her room so that were always there, visible as soon as she woke and on her eyelids as she went to sleep.
‘‘I have some massive highs and some massive lows,’’ she said.
‘‘To become a good athlete and a good sports person you have to lose,’’ she said.
‘‘There is a big difference between being a good athlete and a champion - the champion knows how to lose and get back up again; a champion says thank you to the officials and team members’’
But despite all her successes and triumphs Elka is now on another road which has given her greatest satisfaction and fulfilment - motherhood.
With two young children and a third on the way, she is determined that her children will follow their own talents and wishes - if swimming is part of that fine, if not they will have other paths to tread.