Ash Barty with the Don Award on Thursday night. Picture: AAP
Ash Barty with the Don Award on Thursday night. Picture: AAP

The Don: Barty celebrates another epic milestone

From "fan-girl" to acknowledgement as Australia's finest performer on the international sporting stage, world No 1 Ashleigh Barty is celebrating another epic milestone after winning The Don.

Barty, 23, was awarded The Don on Thursday night - the Sport Australia Hall Of Fame trophy named in honour of Sir Donald Bradman - after a year crammed with highlights.

The first Australian in 46 years to win the French Open, the Queenslander was overwhelmed after edging a field including Dylan Alcott, Cooper Cronk, Steph Gilmore, Craig Lowndes, Ariarne Titmus, Time Paine and Ellyse Perry.

 

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"It's incredibly humbling," Barty said.

"I don't feel like I deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as many of the legends here.

"It's a really good celebration and appreciation of our sport all across the country and for me to be such a small part of that is amazing."

Admitting to experiencing "fan-girl moments where I see athletes in the room that I've looked up for what they've achieved in their career", Barty credited her support team for her success.

"It's really special to have a few different members of my team here because it's a celebration for all of us," she said.

 

 

The Don Award winner Ash Barty poses with fellow inductees Neale Fraser (left) and Ken Rosewall during the Sport Australia Hall of Fame 35th Induction and Awards Gala Dinner at the Palladium at Crown in Melbourne. Picture: AAP
The Don Award winner Ash Barty poses with fellow inductees Neale Fraser (left) and Ken Rosewall during the Sport Australia Hall of Fame 35th Induction and Awards Gala Dinner at the Palladium at Crown in Melbourne. Picture: AAP

"I may be the only one out on the court playing the matches, but there's a lot of people behind the scenes helping me in my day to day life.

"They invest so much time and energy into my career and make so many sacrifices to help me achieve my dream so I'm very fortunate knowing that I have such an enthusiastic team around me.

 

Ash Barty celebrates her French Open win. Picture: Getty Images
Ash Barty celebrates her French Open win. Picture: Getty Images

 

"They encourage me and also criticise me to drive me to be best I can be."

Fresh from a trip alongside idol Evonne Goolagong Cawley to Edmonton Tennis Club near Cairns to surprise 25 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players, Barty hopes to add further lustre to a phenomenal year.

 

She will contest the $20million WTA Finals in Shenzhen from October 27 before leading Australia's charge in the Fed Cup final in Perth against France from November 9.

Champion Sauvage named Hall of Fame Legend

 

Louise Sauvage has been knocking down doors for her sport for decades but admits she didn't see the latest accolade coming.

"A legend … pretty bloody awesome isn't it," was her reaction to the news that she was the first Paralympian to be elevatedto legend status within the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.

"It's fantastic, it's insane. It's not only good for me but for all athletes with disabilities.

"To be seen as much as we can as equal is fantastic and it doesn't really happen as much as we would like.

"Things hopefully are getting better and better, it's a very slow moving process but it's a step closer. It's fantastic thatI have had the opportunity to do that and be recognised at that level is just phenomenal."

 

 

Louise Sauvage accepts her award from Olympic swimming great Dawn Fraser after receiving Legend status at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Picture: AAP
Louise Sauvage accepts her award from Olympic swimming great Dawn Fraser after receiving Legend status at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Picture: AAP

The nine-time Paralympic gold medallist became the 41st Legend of Australian sport at a Gala Dinner at Crown Casino on Thursday night. She had been the first Paralympian to be inducted as a Hall of Fame member in 2007.

Sauvage, 46, was the dominant force in women's wheelchair racing for over 14 years after making her debut at the age of 16 at the 1990 world championships.

She retired after the Athens Paralympic Games in 2004 with a CV bulging with gold medals and records.

At four Paralympic Games she won nine gold medals and four sliver while twice winning gold in the 800m wheelchair demonstrationraces at the Olympic Games in 1996 and 2000. She also won 12 world championships gold medals.

When she looks over her stellar career, Sauvage says there are two events which are close to her heart - the Sydney 2000 Games and the Boston Marathon.

"I feel like the Sydney Paralympics was a turning point in terms of how we presented the Games and how inclusive it was and the education that was put around it to make it as big as what it was," she said.

"The way Australia and the world embraced the Paralympics. It was a really big turning point and I was so proud to be Australian,that we did it and we made that change.

"To have so many people enjoy it, understand it and see what our sports was all about for the first time it was just insane. It was just great that they did such a good job.

"I'd been in Atlanta four years earlier and the Paralympics there were not very great at all. What Sydney did was set us onthis trajectory and the Paralympics have just got better and better with each Games.

"And London 2012 was at another level again. It is becoming bigger and bigger."

On the track most of her success came over 800m and 1500m but she won medals at every distance from 100m to the marathon.

She won a number of major city marathons by the end of her career but Boston was her favourite event which she won four times.

"The Boston Marathon was special as I just went back for it again and again and again," she said. "That was one of the biggest challenges of my career."

She now rates coaching as an even bigger challenge with her star athlete Madison de Rozario contesting the Chicago Marathonthis weekend.

"I've been coaching for 15 years now and initially it was quite daunting," Sauvage said. "Being on the other side I can nowsay it's a lot easier being an athlete to be honest.

"Coaching is very challenging and very rewarding in the same boat. I obviously had a lot of success as an athlete but to bepart of someone else's journey and help them achieve things is just fantastic.

"I get more of a buzz out of that than anything."

 

- Scott Gullan