Australia’s best track and field athletes of 2018 were honoured tonight at the 2019 Athletics Australia Gala Dinner following a very successful Australian Track & Field Championships in Sydney.
BETTY CUTHBERT AWARD - NAA ANANG
Queensland long jumper Naa Anang has won the Betty Cuthbert medal, awarded to the best performance at the Australian Track and Field Championships. Naa won the long jump, with a wind assisted leap of 6.88m. She also twice achieved world championships qualifiers of 6.81m and 6.76m. She moved up to number five in Australian history.
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR - BRANDON STARC
Olympic high jumper Brandon Starc has inarguably had the best season of his career in 2018.
At the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Brandon was brilliant in front of a home crowd, clearing a new personal best of 2.32m on his first jump. In doing so, he not only won the gold medal but also moved to number two on the Australian all-time list.
Following the Commonwealth Games, his tremendous form continued in Europe with clearances of 2.29m, 2.30m and an equal personal best of 2.32m. He challenged the World Indoor Champion and World Number 2, Russia’s Danil Lysenko, in two meets and was only defeated on countback.
In August, the Sydney-sider recorded another personal best of 2.36m at the Eberstadt Hochsprung event in Germany, equalling the 21-year-old Australian record in the process.
To top off the year, one month later, Brandon won the prestigious Diamond League final with a jump of 2.33m, earning himself an impressive $69,300 cheque.
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR - KATHRYN MITCHELL
Despite having already had an extensive and highly successful athletics career, 2018 was definitely a standout out for Kathryn Mitchell.
Following a testing period through 2017, Kathryn made a number changes, including support from a sports psychologist. The results were incredible. At the age of 35, she nailed her two longest throws of her career, including achieving one of her goals of taking the national record with a throw of 67.58m.
In February, Kathryn won the Australian title, her first for 10 years, with a good mark of 65.51m. Her win booked her selection in her fourth Commonwealth Games team, where she not only won gold but also set a new Australian record in the process. Her extraordinary season continued when she again broke the Australian record when she launched the javelin to 68.57m at the Victorian Championships on March 3. The mark was the longest in the world since 2013, an Area Record and elevated her to number 7 in history.
Through change, perserverance and dedication, Kathryn delivered a resurgent 12 months and an unbelievable 2018 campaign, with this award hopefully the cherry-on-top of a phenomenal year in her sporting life.
MALE PARA-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR - MICHAEL ROEGER
Consistency in training and health proved to be the building blocks of a very successful 2018 for three-time T46 Paralympian, Michael Roeger.
Kicking off at the National Track and Field Championships in hot conditions on the Gold Coast, Michael reset the world record for the T46 5000m to 14:06:56. Following close behind, in March Michael took down the T46 1500m world record by lopping almost four seconds off the previous mark by running 3:45:63.
In his marathon debut at the Melbourne Marathon in October, Michael conquered fatigue late in the race by recording 2:23:31, three minutes under the previous world mark and an impressive sixth place overall.
To round off the year and highlight his breadth of talent, Michael toed the line at Zaopek:10 and again placed a notable sixth in the race for the 10,000m National able-bodied title and brilliantly claimed his fourth world record of the year by stopping the clock at 29:24:19.
Guided by coach Philo Saunders, who also ran part of his world record marathon race with him, Michael will tackle the 2019 London Marathon at the end of this month. With his successful debut providing invaluable lessons at that distance and additional miles in the legs, Michael will be looking to have another strong showing before setting his sights on a fourth Paralympic berth.
PARA-ATHLETE OF THE YEAR - MADISON DE ROZARIO
After a series of stunning gold medal performances in 2018, Madison de Rozario continues to prove why she is one of the most promising young athletes in wheelchair racing.
At her Commonwealth Games debut on the Gold Coast, she put the world on notice in the women’s 1500m T54 final, launching a decisive attack with 300m to go to win gold, before pushing to a 13-second lead in the women’s marathon T54 to make it two from two.
Over the following six weeks, Madison became the first Australian to win the elite women’s wheelchair race at the London Marathon, and collected a hat-trick of gold medals at the 2018 World Para-athletics Grand Prix in Nottwil, Switzerland, where she equalled the women’s 1500m T53/54 world record set by Tatyana McFadden (USA).
Madison, who was first encouraged to begin wheelchair racing by Australian Paralympic Hall of Fame inductee Frank Ponta, made her Paralympic debut more than 10 years ago as the youngest athlete on the Australian Paralympic Team. She is now training under esteemed wheelchair racer Louise Savage.
With three Paralympic appearances and three Paralympic silver medals now under her belt, and as the reigning World Champion in the women’s 5000m T53, Madison has never been more ready to contest gold at the Paralympic Games in 2022.
Other awards announced through the Australian Track & Field Championships included:
Junior Female Athlete of the Year - Keely Small
Junior Male Athlete of the Year - Ashley Moloney
Able Bodied Athlete Coach of the Year - Alex Stewart
Junior Coach of the Year - Eric Brown
Para Athlete Coach of the Year - Louise Sauvage
Official of the Year - Caroline Jackman