Alex Blackwell will bring her record-breaking career to an end after the Sydney Thunder veteran announced she’ll retire at the end of the Women’s Big Bash.
With the year coming to an end, it is worth reflecting on Australians international sporting performances during the year.
Sometimes I think that we get fixated on results at the Olympics, Paralympics and Commonwealth Games, which only come around every four years, but Australia’s position in international world sport goes far beyond these major events.
The results below highlight the many international sports that Australians excel in despite our a relatively small population.
At the start of 2017 there were three winter sport world champions – Britteny Cox in the moguls, Scotty James in snowboard halfpipe and Paralympian Mitchell Gourley in para-alpine super combined.
I’m looking forward to seeing how these and other highly credentialled Australian athletes go at the Winter Olympics and Paralympics, but the dynamics of winter sport mean champions after often beaten and there are surprise winners. We just need to go back to Steven Bradbury,
One of the standout highlights for me was Sally Pearson winning the 100 metres hurdles at world championships after injury forced her out of the Rio Olympics. A true champion like Pearson repeats success over many years.
Our Paralympic track and field athletes won numerous gold medals at their world championships, including James Turner (three gold), Isis Holt (two gold), Scott Reardon, Cameron Crombie, Jayden Sawyer, Deon Kenzie, Madison de Rozario and Evan O’Hanlon.
Boxing has immense spectator interest in Australia, and school teacher Jeff Horn won the WBO welterweight championship by defeating the legendary Manny Pacquiao in Brisbane in front of a packed Suncorp Stadium.
The Australian women’s cricket team, no longer called the Southern Stars, had an exciting series against England and retained the Ashes. Hopefully the men’s team can follow suit by winning one of the final three Test matches to regain the Ashes.
At the sprint and slalom canoeing world championships several canoeists stood on the dais in the gold medal position. Sprint champions were the men’s K4-1000 metres team – Kenny Wallace, Jordan Wood, Riley Fitzsimmons, Murray Stewart – and Alyce Burnett in the K1-1000 metres.
Paralympians won five gold medals, including Curtis McGrath (two), Amanda Reynolds, Jocelyn Neumueller and Susan Seipel. Slalom paddler Jessica Fox won her seventh senior world championships title in winning the K1 title.
Cycling had success on the track and road. Michael Matthews became the third Australian to win the green jersey in the Tour de France.
Track cyclists won three gold at the world championships – Jordan Kerby (individual pursuit); Sam Welsford, Cameron Meyer, Alexander Porter and Nick Yallouris (men’s pursuit); and Cameron Meyer (points race).
Para-cycling had two track world champions – David Nicholas and Amanda Reid – and evergreen Victorian Carole Cooke won two gold medals at the world road championships. Special mention to Katrin Garfoot, who won two medals at the road world championships.
Two divers had success at the world championships – Maddison Keeney in the one metre springboard and Rhiannan Iffland in the high dive.
In football the Socceroos did it the hard way but qualified for their fourth successive World Cup after defeating Honduras in Sydney. The Matildas won the Tournament of Nations, which included defeating the United States for the first time and impressive wins over Brazil (6-1) and Japan (4-2).
On the US golf circuit Marc Leishman won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and BMW Championship, Cameron Smith with Swede Jonas Blixt won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and Katherine Kirk won her third LGPA title in winning the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.
At the world rowing championships Australia won three gold medals – women’s four crew (Molly Goodman, Sarah Hawe, Katrina Werry and Lucy Stephen), men’s four crew (Joshua Hicks, Alexander Hill, Spencer Turrin and Jack Hargreaves) and Paralympian Erik Horrie in PR1 single scull.
After finishing second at the Rio Olympics, Mathew Belcher and Will Ryan won the 470 class at the world championships.
Tyler Wright repeated her success of last year by winning the world surfing title. Since 1976 Australian women have won the world surfing title 17 times.
In rugby league the Kangaroos defeated England 6-0 and Jillaroos defeated New Zealand 23-16 to win their respective world cups in Australia.
In the International Rules Series the Australian AFL team, sometimes referred to as the Galahs, defeated Ireland 2-0.
The Diamonds defeated arch rivals the Silver Ferns to win netball’s Constellation Cup.
At the world swimming championships Emily Seebohm won the gold medal in the women’s 200 metres backstroke. Australia won only ten medals (one gold), which is a far cry from the success at recent world championships. Paralympic swimming world championships were postponed due to a devastating earthquake in Mexico.
In triathlon the mixed relay team, comprising Charlotte McShane, Matthew Hauser, Ashleigh Gentle and Jacob Birtwhistle, were world champions. Felicity Sheedy-Ryan became duathlon world champion. Two Paralympians were crowned world champions – Katie Kelly with her guide Michellie Jones and Emily Tapp.
The Australian team won four gold medals at the World University Summer Games in Taipei. Swimmer Sian Whittaker won the 100 metres and 200 metres backstroke, track and field athlete Kyle Cranston the decathlon and the Emerging Opals the women’s basketball title.
Indigenous tennis player Ash Barty, after a stint at cricket, won her first WTA title at the Wuhan Open.
In recent days the Kookaburras won hockey’s world league final for the second time by defeating Olympic champions Argentina 2-1.
Australians won numerous world junior titles in a range of sports including ice skating, mountain bike, rowing, shooting and snowboarding.
This list does not include the many Australian athletes and teams that won minor medals in international events.
Let’s rejoice these champions and acknowledge that Australia is one of the leading sporting nations in the world. It is not just about the Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games medal success.