Jodie Henry OAM and Michellie Jones complete the list of eight inductees for 2014 into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame tonight – one of the highest of this sporting nation’s individual honours.
Along with previously announced fellow sporting stars Natalie Cook OAM, Bill Lawry AM, Michael Milton OAM and Kerri Pottharst OAM, swim coach Denis Cotterell and sports scientist Dick Telford AM, they will join the elite sporting club at its annual Induction and Awards Gala Dinner tonight.
The dinner, presented by Etihad Airways, is the largest annual collective gathering of Australian sporting champions and luminaries. Tonight’s gala in Melbourne will be the 30th edition.
Henry continued Australia’s tradition of producing Queens of the Pool
Jodie Henry’s name is synonymous with the 2004 Olympic Games. With her grandmother cheering her on from the set of morning television back home she became the nation’s darling of those Games.
She will long be remembered for her stellar efforts in the Athens pool – setting a world record in winning the 100m freestyle crown and as a key member of the 4×100 freestyle and 4×100 medley teams – each of which also set world marks as they took gold.
But those achievements were no flash in the pan. Either side of those Games, Henry won a swag of world championships medals, a silver and two bronze in Barcelona (2003) and then five gold – three in Montreal in 2005 and two more in Melbourne two years later.
There were also four Commonwealth Games golds – three from Manchester (2002) and another in Melbourne (2006), along with three silvers.
Internationally she had first sprung to notice in Manchester and then soon after at the Pan Pacs in Japan where she picked up two gold medals as a member of the victorious Australian relay teams and perhaps more ominously for the rest of the freestyle world – two individual silvers at 50 and 100 metres.
Her successes played a key role in the rejuvenation of Australian women’s swimming and its profile. She was acknowledged as the sport’s Swimmer of the Year in 2004 but was not an early starter in her career.
“I didn’t really start hard training until I was in my teens. I wasn’t overly passionate about swimming. I like it and enjoyed it, but I did it a lot for the social side,” Henry who confesses to having been a shy girl, said.
“It was a real family thing for us, because we three girls did it and Dad was a master’s swimmer and he was involved in the local swimming club and was also a part time coach after his normal job would finish.”
The 4x100m freestyle relay win on the opening night of the Athens Games to Henry, alongside Petria Thomas, Alice Mills and Libby Lenton was perhaps surprisingly the first time Australia had won the event in 48 years. It turned the clock back to 1956, when the great Dawn Fraser led Lorraine Crapp, Faith Leech and Sandra Morgan to gold in Melbourne.
“Obviously Athens was the highlight of my career but that first gold medal on the first night – the 4x100m freestyle relay is my most vivid memory and one that stands out,” said Henry.
“My training partner Alice Mills was in the team with me; Libby Trickett as well and a local Brisbane girl, so we had done a fair bit of relay practice, because we knew we were a shot to win.”
She acknowledges her coach Shannon Rollason as a major influence on her career.
“At the time my coach was a big impact, but before that it was my parents. They did make it more fun for me in the way that I started in swimming, they didn’t push me at all.”
Robert de Castella AO MBE, chair of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame selection committee said that Henry’s contribution to a sport which has delivered so much for Australia was rightly regarded as being amongst the best.
“Jodie Henry ranks alongside and goes stroke for stroke with any of this country’s greatest female freestyle sprinters, a discipline that Australia has excelled at, and through her incredible achievements has reignited women’s swimming,” de Castella said.
One of that special crop and another triple Olympic gold medallist Shane Gould will be the presenter when Henry is inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame tonight.
Trailblazer Jones inspired a generation of Australian women
Michellie Jones was a trailblazer for her young sport. When she first medalled, with a bronze, at the 1991 Women’s World Triathlon Championships, it was Australia’s first – our girls having missed out on the podium in the two initial editions. But Jones’ pathfinding spirit and determination paved the way for an eleven year continuous stint of Aussie women on the victory dais of the event – and for many more since.
During that time she was unquestionably the most successful of a rampaging Australian squad which dominated the sport during that era. Jones medalled in those world championships on eight occasions, twice as champion – in 1992 and 1993, with two silvers and three more bronze medals.
History reveals on that one simple measure the extent of Jones’ greatness – for to date, no other athlete has stood there post race more often than she.
In the same era she scored twelve World Cup victories, won the San Diego International ten times and the Chicago Triathlon on seven occasions. She was the winner of the ITUs overall World Cup tour crown in both 1998 and 2000, having been third in 1993.
When triathlon made its Olympic debut it was in Sydney, Jones’ home town and fittingly she was at the forefront of the action – taking the silver medal just seconds away from the gold.
But at 31 years of age she was not yet done and after her last world championship medals in 2001 and 2003, Jones moved up to the longer distances of Ironman racing.
In just her second attempt at the discipline in 2005, she was second in the world title, winning it the following year – becoming the first Australian woman (and the second Australian following Greg Welch) to take the legendary Kona Hawaii Ironman crown.
A qualified teacher, Jones began her sporting career in athletics – taking a bronze medal over 3000 metres in the Australian All Schools Track and Field Championships in 1986. But with a multi sport recreational background she quickly realised as triathlon emerged as a sport in its own right that it provided her with the platform to go much further.
She considers it a privilege to be included into the Hall of Fame as only the second triathlete after Welch, and fittingly therefore the first female to be inducted.
“It’s definitely an honour to be considered for induction. It’s a great reminder of all the achievements in your sport. To actually be inducted will be extra icing on the cake on my sporting career,” Jones said.
“I have been very blessed to be able achieve so much in the sport of triathlon. The sport of triathlon not only has defined me in my sporting life but also well beyond the playing field.”
“Triathlon is a big part of who I am and it’s like family having raced 25 years as a professional. I hope I have inspired others to believe that anything is possible no matter how unreachable it may seem.”
The Sport Australia Hall of Fame selection committee had no doubts about Jones’ special contribution to triathlon and Australian sport in general.
“Michellie Jones took Australian women’s triathlon to new heights, dominating the world from 1991 to 2003 in the hugely popular Olympic distance triathlon. Not satisfied, she then moved up to the full ironman, winning the legendary Kona Hawaiian Ironman in 2006,” Chair Robert de Castella said.
Another Australian golden girl who excelled in multi discipline events, Los Angeles heptathlon gold medallist, Glynis Nunn Cearns will have the honour of making the presentation to Michellie Jones on the occasion of her official Sport Australia Hall of Fame Induction this evening.
382 sporting stars have previously been inducted as Athlete Members of The Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Along with 143 General Members, there are a total of 525 members of The Sport Australia Hall of Fame.
With a vision and values built around the words of the first inductee and Legend of Australian Sport, Sir Donald Bradman AC, the Sport Australia Hall of Fame is determined to carry to all Australians everywhere the symbol of excellence, as represented by all its members across all sports and genders.