Taliqua Clancy and Alex Winwood will feel an extra sense of pride when putting on their Indigenous-designed Australian uniform at Tokyo, knowing there is support behind them and a platform for their voices.
- AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said the RAP isn’t just a document but an opportunity for “real action”
- Australian beach volleyballer Taliqua Clancy and Australian boxer Alex Winwood praised the AOC’s commitment to First Nations recognition
- AOC partnered with Deadly Choices and Queensland Academy of Sport to host the inaugural ‘Young Olympic Deadlies’ event
The Australian Olympic Committee on Wednesday launched their “Reflect” Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) to continue on their journey of recognising the heritage, culture and history of First Nations people at every level of the organisation.
In 2015, the AOC first amended its constitution and committed to giving practical support to reconciliation by firstly recognising the importance of Australia’s First Nations people, then making significant changes to the organisation’s governance and strategic development.
A real governance shift came last year when the AOC established the Indigenous Advisory Committee, chaired by Olympian Patrick Johnson, which would provide direct advice and direction to the AOC to ensure that there is integration of acknowledgment , recognition and celebration of First Nations people into the Australian Olympic movement.
At the launch event, AOC chief executive Matt Carroll was adamant this would be another positive and productive step forward.
“We want to make it about real action, not just having a document — not just words,” Carroll said.
Clancy, who competed at the Rio Olympics in 2016 for beach volleyball and is set to compete again in Tokyo, said the AOC’s support carries a lot of weight.
“As an athlete, to know that we have that support behind our voices is important,” she said.
“By committing to this RAP it shows how far they’ve come in recognising First Nations people and our contribution.”
Ten Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander athletes could potentially be competing at this year’s games.
Winwood, who was the first Indigenous athlete to be selected to compete at the Tokyo games for boxing, says creating opportunities has been an integral part of recognising Indigenous talent across the country.
“I am proud that young Indigenous athletes can see that this is a pathway for them if they choose it.”
Getting Indigenous youth more involved rang true at Wednesday’s launch with the AOC partnering with Deadly Choices to host their inaugural “Young Olympic Deadlies” event, putting the youngsters through their paces with the support of the Queensland Academy of Sport.
Preparations are well underway
Clancy and beach volleyball teammate Mariafe Artacho del Sola haven’t had the preparation they anticipated leading up to their first Olympics together, after being forced to stay in Australia and train due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Nevertheless, their preparations on home soil have been meaningful, which they proved last month when competing at their first World Tour event in Cancun, Mexico, where they won gold.
Clancy said that victory has given them confidence they are on the right track for Tokyo.
“I think that definitely helped reaffirm the great work that we did over a very long, extended preseason from COVID last year,” Clancy said.
“Those three weeks were definitely very tough – we had three tournaments and three weeks and such a long time from not competing. So there was a lot of emotion and I think that’s exactly what we’re going to experience in Tokyo. It was really great preparation.
“We would usually like to be away travelling and competing a bit more [in the lead-up to the Olympics] but because of the strict rules that Australia has, we had to be really smart about it.
“If you test positive before Tokyo you can actually even go. You get two tests and if you test positive in one of them, you aren’t able to enter the village. So it’s really difficult for all athletes to make a decision of what is the best preparation.”
Clancy and Artacho del Solar played World juniors together, where they won a bronze but had different partners when they both competed at the Rio games in 2016.
Clancy said the time is right for them to reunite.
“Mariafe and I have always had such a great team chemistry, you see it on the court as well,” she said.
“It’s really great to see people enjoy our style of volleyball. I definitely am the more fiery one on court.
“Preparations are going really well, we’ve taken the lessons that we learnt in Mexico and trying to improve them as much as we can in these four weeks before we head off.
“I think the two different journeys that we went on, and now us coming together after learning many lessons, has definitely made the team really strong.”
Winwood, who qualified for the Olympics in February last year after missing out on Rio, has been training with professional Australian boxers, the Maloney brothers.
In a week’s time him and the Australian boxing team will head over to Colorado in the United States to train against team USA for approximately three weeks, before both countries head to Tokyo to train with Germany and Ireland.
The 23-year-old said although there’s an overwhelming feeling of excitement, there’s still work to be done.
“It’s all becoming really real,” Winwood said.
“My mate every morning wakes up and he’ll say, ‘there’s 59 days left, there’s 57 days left’.
“It feels like a big reward [to be selected to compete at the Olympics] but I do understand that the job is not done.
“What I set out to do to get to the Games, that’s ticked off but it’s not over until we get the medals.”
The games are on
While the AOC’s RAP looked to the future, media couldn’t help but ask for reassurance that the games were still going ahead.
The AOC boss confirmed there is no doubt on that front, however there was uncertainty around how many athletes will be vaccinated before their departure to Tokyo.
“We are certainly going to have Olympics this year,” Carroll said.
“We have regular discussions with the Tokyo organising committees and the International Olympic Committee [around vaccinations], we’re planning our own protocols for the Australian team.
“We now have a just about fully vaccinated Australian team — around the world, up to 85 per cent of everyone attending the games will be vaccinated.
“However, it’s not compulsory for the athletes. I can’t guarantee 100 per cent at this point in time, but we’re going to be very close.”