Seven superstars of Australian sport have been shortlisted for the coveted ‘The Don’ Award, presented to the athlete who has most inspired the nation during the past twelve months.
The winner will be unveiled at the 30th anniversary edition of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame Annual Induction and Awards dinner, proudly presented by Etihad Airways on Thursday, 9 October at Palladium at Crown Melbourne.
Amongst the nominees is Formula One grand prix winner Daniel Ricciardo, NBA champion Patrick Mills, Commonwealth Games gold medallists Sally Pearson and marathon man Michael Shelley, Sochi aerials bronze medallist Lydia Lassila, cricketer Mitchell Johnson and tennis young-gun Nick Kyrgios.
Lassila and Pearson will both be vying to join pole vaulter Steve Hooker as athletes to have won ‘The Don’ on two occasions.
"Don Bradman symbolised everything that was wonderful in sport. The Award in his name marks a pinnacle in an athlete's career. To be nominated is a wonderful honour," Pearson, who won the award in 2012 following her London heroics, said.
Lassila, who won the award in 2010 after her Vancouver Winter Olympics victory added, “I am really humbled to be nominated for the Don Award for a second time in my career. I realise this is a rarity! Winning bronze in Sochi was a special moment for me but what was more important than any ‘hardware’ I’ve ever received was reaching my personal quest of becoming the first woman to ever perform a quad twisting triple somersault. It’s humbling to know that this effort has been recognised not only in the history books of aerial skiing, but in Australian Sport. It certainly took every ounce of my will, courage and spirit to do it and it’s great for that to have been recognised over the colour of the medal.”
In 2013, golfer Adam Scott was the run-away winner, for his sudden-death playoff victory to become the first Australian to win the US Masters. This year’s award is much more open. Who would you choose from the nominees below?
In the lead up to the 2013 Ashes, Mitchell Johnson had been plagued by injury, but he came out and delivered one of the finest performances in modern cricket, snaring 37 wickets over the five test series. He was Man of the Match in three of the five matches, earning him Man of the Series.
Australian tennis teenager Nick Kyrgios pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Wimbledon history when he beat world number one Rafael Nadal in four sets to reach the quarter finals. The youngest player in the men’s draw, ranked 144th in the world, the 19-year-old became the first man to reach the last eight at Wimbledon on debut since Florian Mayer a decade ago.
Three-time Winter Olympian Lydia Lassila went to Sochi Games as defending champion in the aerials and gave an extraordinary performance. For her last jump Lassila committed to the most difficult aerial jump ever attempted by a women in competition - a quad twisting triple somersault. Having nailed it in training, Lassila decided to go for it. With the gold medal on the line, she was just short of executing a clean landing… but still she captured the bronze medal.
On one of the biggest and most hyped stages in world sport Patrick Mills climbed to the pinnacle of America’s National Basketball Association. Mills capped a remarkable rise, playing the entire season despite suffering a shoulder injury, to have a key role in the San Antonio Spurs’ NBA victory. The unassuming point guard from Canberra became the first player of Australian indigenous heritage to win an NBA championship ring.
2012 The Don Award winner Sally Pearson battled an injury interrupted preparation and a mountain of pressure in the lead up to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. But once again she showed the mental strength for which she is renowned, charging to victory in the 100m hurdles beating a quality field to defend her Commonwealth Games title.
Daniel Ricciardo was hailed as one of the finest drivers in Formula One, after scoring three Grand Prix victories this season in Canada, Hungary and Belgium. The 25-year-old from Perth replaced countryman Mark Webber at Red Bull Racing and his performances this year have stamped him as a potential future world champion.
In the Glasgow Commonwealth Games marathon, Michael Shelley was dropped from the lead pack by seven African runners. To his credit, Shelley didn’t give up and dug deep to pass all seven and go on to win by 43 seconds, surpassing the silver medal he won in Delhi four years earlier. Shelley joined an elite group of Dave Power, Rob de Castella and Steve Moneghetti as the only Australians to have won the Commonwealth Games men’s marathon.
The Sport Australia Hall of Fame Chairman John Bertrand AM said just to be nominated for ‘The Don’ is an achievement when considering the depth of talent and performances in Australian sport.
“At the core of this award is the values set out by our first Sport Australia Hall of Fame Inductee and who this award is created to honour, Sir Donald Bradman, which include dignity, integrity, courage and modesty in compatibility with pride, ambition and competitiveness,” Bertrand said.
“All seven have demonstrated those values.”
The 30th anniversary milestone occasion will celebrate the 525 Australian sporting greats who are the members of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Members who represent the pinnacle of 160 years of sporting excellence including Sir Donald Bradman AC, Dawn Fraser AO MBE, Betty Cuthbert AM MBE, Rod Laver MBE, Leigh Matthews, Wally Lewis AM, John Eales AM, Mick Doohan AM, Greg Norman AC, Catherine Freeman OAM, John Coates AC and Bruce McAvaney OAM.
In addition, eight of the nation’s greatest champions will be inducted into the coveted Sport Australia Hall of Fame and one current member will be elevated to legend status, becoming the “36th legend of Australian sport”.
Established in 1985, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame plays a very important role in preserving and perpetuating our rich sporting heritage, whilst promoting the values of courage, sportsmanship, integrity, mateship, persistence, excellence, underpinned by generosity, modesty, pride and ambition.
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