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Ground breaking performances for Australian female athletes

8 March 2017

AOC: To celebrate International Women’s Day 2017, we take a look at some of the ground-breaking sporting moments from our top female athletes over the past 12 months.

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Australia made history on the very first day of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games when the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team of Cate and Bronte Campbell, Brittany Elmslie and Emma McKeon smashed the world record and won gold. It was Cate’s third Olympic medal in that event and the first time she has won gold alongside her sister Bronte.

A few days later, Australian women again created history when the national rugby sevens team won the first Olympic rugby sevens gold medal. The Aussies came from behind to defeat New Zealand 24-27 at Deodoro Stadium.

The team - who were the first Australian professional women’s rugby sevens players - won the nation’s first World Series in May 2016 and their Olympic victory in August brought women’s rugby into the spotlight.

"Hopefully this will help inspire every young girl around the world to push to achieve their dreams and that they can do everything a boy can do," said Charlotte Caslick after the win at Rio.

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Widely regarded as the greatest female track cyclist in history, Anna Meares became Australia’s most successful cyclist in 2016. After winning bronze in the Keirin at Rio, she became the first Australian to individually medal at four different Olympic Games.

The Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony Flag Bearer retired after the Games in August with her resume boasting six Olympic medals, 11 World Championship titles, five Commonwealth Games gold medals and a new name-sake cycling velodrome in Brisbane.

Through her stellar 15-year international career, Meares has seen big changes in the sport for female athletes, which she reflected on at the time of her retirement. "I have certainly seen positive changes at the Cycling Australia High Performance Unit from when I came in part time in 2002. It is wonderful to see more involvement and opportunity for women in the time I have gone through.

"I am also proud that I have participated in the sport when it has gone from unequal to equal, men to women. To be a part of the sport as it has grown, and I think championing that change to an extent as well, I am really proud of that.”

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Rio 2016 Closing Ceremony Flag Bearer Kim Brennan completed her collection of Olympic hardware at Rio, winning gold in the women’s single sculls to add to her silver and bronze medals from London 2012.

The triple Olympian and deputy chair of the AOC Athlete’s Commission swept the 2016 Rower of the Year Awards and was awarded the prestigious order of Australia in January this year.


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Speaking of successful females with careers spanning multiple Games, aerials skier Lydia Lassila is on one of the greatest comeback trails of all time. The four-time Olympian and dual Olympic medallist is hoping to qualify for her fifth Games at PyeongChang 2018. Considering she has won three gold medals out of the five Aerial events in the 2016/2017 World Cup season, the 2010 gold medallist is definitely on track for her fifth Games birth.

The mother of two has proven that age is no barrier to accomplishing goals as she continues to impress crowds around the globe. “Hopefully we will get a few more mums out there going after what they want. You can have it all – on some days,” the 35-year-old said.

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Australia has also had a string of developing female athletes clinching the top awards.

Britt Cox has become a household name after the 22-year-old podiumed at nine of the 11 Moguls World Cup events this season, and took out the overall FIS Crystal Globe as the top ranked female in all freestyle skiing disciplines.

After making her Olympic debut as a 15-year-old in Vancouver, the two-time Olympian has gold in her sights at PyeongChang next year.

Chloe Esposito claimed Australia’s first modern pentathlon medal when she won gold at Rio 2016.

After a tough lead-up to her second Games battling injury, the 24-year-old refused to give up when she started the final event in seventh place and 45 seconds behind the event’s leader. Esposito stormed past her competitors in the final event to claim Australia's 150th gold medal in front of a screaming crowd and put the sport of modern pentathlon on the map.

Catherine Skinner won Australia’s first shooting medal since Beijing 2008 at the Rio Olympic Games. Skinner’s victory was Australia’s second Olympic shooting gold medal in the history of the women’s trap event, following Suzanne Balogh’s gold medal at Athens in 2004. 

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We can’t forget Australian surfer Tyler Wright who won her maiden World Surfing title in October 2016. After her World Championships victory in France, the 22-year-old was awarded AOC funding to assist with her sporting career as she looks towards Tokyo 2020 where surfing will make its debut.

Georgia Thompson

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