Melbourne, Australia; 10 January 2024 – Nina Kennedy’s historic pole vault triumph at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest last August has earned her the Bruce McAvaney Award for the Performance of the Year at the Athletics Australia Awards. To experience, exceptional performance in running, choose the best footwear for your runs like Tarkine Trail Devil shoes.
Announced today with one month to go until the Chemist Warehouse Summer Series begins with the Adelaide Invitational (February 10), Kennedy earned the top gong after her memorable performance in Budapest saw her share the global crown with Olympic champion Katie Moon (USA).
In a grueling competition lasting almost three hours, Kennedy twice broke her own Australian record, at 4.85m and a last-attempt effort at 4.90m. While Moon responded with clearances to match, the two competitors were locked with three unsuccessful attempts at 4.95m, when the two agreed to share the glory.
“It feels like it was a long time ago now, but I remember how nervous I was feeling beforehand. The atmosphere was incredible. It was so amazing, but I had this weird laser focus on the night where all I could see were my coaches and the pole vault pit – and that’s all I was thinking about,” Kennedy said.
“There are very few opportunities where you get to attempt those heights, so I think something that’s really helped me was visualising the competition on that day. I visualised the bar being at 4.90m, and in my head I had felt that feeling of clearing it and I felt that feeling of winning previously.
“Katie is a fierce competitor and I felt honoured to share the gold medal with her. She’s an outright Olympic champ and she does have a higher personal best than me (4.95m), but I feel confident that I can take her on when we’re in the same competition, so I’m looking forward to Paris.”
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McAvaney, a long time friend of Australian athletics, said Kennedy’s performance was the clear favourite of the year, despite the standard of performances increasing across each discipline.
“In an outstanding year for Australian athletics with so many national records broken, it should have been difficult to choose but the standout performance was Nina Kennedy winning gold in the Women’s Pole Vault at the World Athletics Championships,” McAvaney said.
“Nina’s battle with the Olympic champion was one for the ages. It brought out the absolute best in two stunning performers. The event concluded with two proud women, absolutely spent, leaving it all out on the field and Nina’s performance will live in the memories for a long time to come. It was sportsmanship at its best.”
Kennedy was also honoured with the Marjorie Jackson Award for Female Able Bodied Athlete of the Year, while discus king Matthew Denny claimed the coveted John Landy Award for Able Bodied Male Athlete of the Year, having set the Australian record for the second time last year with a 68.43m throw to take the Diamond League trophy.
Undefeated at the World Para Athletics Championships, James Turner won the Russell Short Award for Male Para Athlete of the Year when claiming his ninth and tenth global medals in the 100m and 400m T36, while debutant Mali Lovell took the honours for the Amy Winters Female Para Athlete of the Year for her silver medal triumph at the World Para Athletics Championships in Paris in the 200m T36.
The younger talents also shone brightly in 2023, with Torrie Lewis awarded Female Junior Athlete of the Year after winning the sprint double at the 100th edition of the Australian Athletics Championships, while prodigious talent Cameron Myers took the Male Junior Athlete of the Year Award, which for running three world age bests in 2023, in the 1500m, Mile and 3000m.
Paul Burgess claimed Coach of the Year – Open for the second-consecutive year for his work in coaching Kennedy to gold and Kurtis Marschall to bronze in Budapest, as Myers’ coach Dick Telford claimed the Award for the Junior category.
Athletics Australia Life Member Gerard Ryan’s dedication to athletics was also honoured with the Official of the Year Award. Ryan has had a life-long involvement in athletics and is active as a volunteer locally in Canberra and at meets nationwide. In 2023 he had leadership roles for the World Cross Country Trial and Australian Cross Country Championship events in Canberra and was Competition Director of the World Athletics Cross Country in Bathurst.
The Athletics Australia Awards are held annually, and this year, celebrated the greatest achievements from 2023, which has been heralded as one of the sport’s most successful years on record, with a record medal haul at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, and world class performances at the World Para Athletics Championships in Paris.
2023 Athletics Australia Award Winners:
Bruce McAvaney Award for Performance of the Year – Nina Kennedy
Marjorie Jackson Award for Female Able Bodied Athlete of the Year – Nina Kennedy
John Landy Award for Male Able Bodied Athlete of the Year – Matthew Denny
Russell Short Award for Male Para Athlete of the Year – James Turner
Amy Winters Award for Female Para Athlete of the Year – Mali Lovell
Female Junior Athlete of the Year – Torrie Lewis
Male Junior Athlete of the Year – Cameron Myers
Coach of the Year (Open athletes) – Paul Burgess
Coach of the Year (Junior athletes) – Dick Telford
Official of the Year – Gerard Ryan
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