NSWIS Lights Up

NSWIS athletes share unique stories of fightbacks, fears, sacrifices, and triumphs in a series of compelling documentaries. Each story is different, but they’re entwined by a fierce inner courage and the desire to shine on the world’s greatest sporting stage.


Jessica Fox, acknowledged as the world’s Greatest Ever Paddler, shares an insight into the values her family instilled in her from a young age, of hard work and applying oneself to a task, which was done with the great love and support of her parents. She acknowledges that not every day goes according to plan, but she delves into why it’s important to move on, knowing that tomorrow is another day. She reveals the methods she’s used to cope with pressure and speaks passionately about having the courage to embrace the tough days and learn from sport’s harshest lessons.



Gordon Allan suffered a loss of oxygen at birth, but it wasn’t until he was two that his parents realised what impact their son’s tough entry to the world had on him – he had cerebral palsy. His parents refused to allow this to stop him from making the most of his life and encouraged him to express himself through sport as he tried athletics, swimming, soccer and karate.



Brandon Starc’s childhood in western Sydney was consumed by participating in sport as he and his siblings tried their hand at everything from ten pin bowling, dancing, table tennis, cricket, soccer and Little Athletics. Training and competing in a variety of sports re-enforced for Starc his parents’ values of applying yourself to a task and working hard to get it done. After being accepted to the Hill Sports High School in Seven Hills, Starc found himself in their athletics program under the guidance of Alex Stewart, a partnership that has lasted over 15 years.



Melissa Wu opens up about her family, including the cultural significance she feels about being half Chinese. She reveals how she was inspired by her grandparents (on her father’s side) who migrated to Australia and worked hard to create a life for themselves in their new country. Wu explains how her family values are entwined in the ethics of family, work, and looking out for one another. She also admitted that, as an athlete, one of her driving forces is to make her family proud – and explains why having her sister, grandfather, and father on hand at the 2008 Beijing Games when she won the silver medal made her even hungrier for success. #NSWISLightsUp


Born within earshot of the roar of the waves of Shelley Beach on the NSW central coast, and a few short minutes away from the local pool, Brad Woodward was destined to be a ‘water baby’. Woodward started his swimming career as a talented exponent of the butterfly stroke, but after suffering a shoulder injury as a 12-year-old he switched his focus to backstroke. From an early age he learnt to embrace the ‘one percenters’ and the philosophy that if you want to be a professional athlete, act like one.



Jonathon ‘Jono’ Milne’s life changed forever when he went to Avoca beach for a quick dip before dinner on Christmas Eve, 2012. Diving into a what appeared to be a harmless wave, Milne had no feeling in his legs when he resurfaced. While rehabilitating from his injuries, Milne searched for something that would keep his mind occupied and stumbled upon archery. He could never have imagined the world that was about to open up to him, all because of an unfortunate twist of fate. #NSWISLightsUp

Mackenzie Little OLY

Mackenzie Little credits her parents’ approach to her sporting pursuits ‘go do your best … have a good time … don’t get injured and come home’ – for putting her on a journey to representing Australia in athletics, as well as broader interests in the trumpet and science, which ultimately forged her career in medicine. Little won the bronze medal at the 2023 Budapest World Athletics Championships, where, for the very first time, Little believed she should get a medal, signalling a new phase in her career where due to hard work and commitment Little believes she deserves results.


Matt Wilson OLY

Realising his swimming dreams at Faulconbridge Public School’s swimming carnival, to being offered a scholarship with the NSWIS Swimming Squad as a teenager, Matt Wilson quickly learned the commitment required for elite athletes, driving 60km from the Blue Mountains to Sydney for an early morning training session. Wilson’s family ‘bought in’ 100 percent to support his dream and he explains why the only pressure he ever felt to succeed to justify their efforts came from himself.


Bronte Halligan OLY

With a father who was a rugby league superstar, and a sister who represented New Zealand in Surf Life Saving, Bronte Halligan grew up in a family that was so competitive the loser of their card games had to do the washing up! The water polo Olympian reveals the purpose of that was to strive to be better versions of themselves through honing the competitive spirit. Her parents instilled in their children that the requirements to become a good person and a good athlete was dedication, time, commitment and values. Halligan shares why, in a house that was fiercely pro-New Zealand, she willingly embraced Australia and the nation’s green and gold battle colours. #NSWISLightsUp

Tim Hodge PLY

Paralympian and World Champion Tim Hodge opens up about his journey as a Para athlete and why he would not change anything. He recalls the day his parents put him the car to have his right foot amputated, his struggles as he tried different sports, before finding his niche as a swimmer, a discovery that would take him around the world, wearing the green and gold for Australia. #NSWISLightsUp

Sarah Carli OLY

An advertisement in Sarah Carli’s school’s newsletter asking for new members to join the Wollongong City Little Athletics club helped put the eight-year-old on the path to becoming a gifted hurdler. As she was preparing for her first Olympic campaign, she found herself thrust into a life and death nightmare when an accident in the gym resulted in a bar stacked with weights crushing her neck. #NSWISLightsUp

Sarah Carli competes in the women

Tara Rigney OLY

After being selected for the NSW under 19 netball team, Tara Rigney was on the path to fulfilling her dream of reaching the elite level of that sport. However, her dreams came to a shattering halt after two torturous ACL injuries in the space of one year. Rigney speaks frankly about the isolation and struggles she endured through not being able to train or play alongside her teammates. However, the setback opened a new sporting career path in rowing which led to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and a world championship medal. #NSWISLightsUp

Tara Rigney of Team Australia competes during Women’s Quadruple Sculls on Day 0 of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Sea Forest Waterway on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Dylan Littlehales PLY

Born with only four toes in his left foot, Dylan Littlehales challenged the doctors with his condition from a young age. In between playing sports he endured over 20 major surgeries and wore a special frame which had metal bars sticking into his bones to stretch them. His parents supported him to push through every challenge – he wasn’t raised a quitter. #NSWISLightsUp

Dylan Littlehales wins world championships gold in the Canoe Sprint.

Olivia Price OLY & Evie Haseldine

Olympic silver medallist Olivia Price likes to tell people she’s known her crewmate Evie Haseldine since she was ‘in her mother’s belly!’ Olivia vividly remembers when Evie’s mother was pregnant and carrying Evie. Little could she know that one day – at Evie’s insistence – they’d pair up just 18 months before the Paris Olympics to launch an audacious medal campaign. #NSWISLightsUp

Olivia Price and Evie Haseldine CREDIT Gettys 1

Shane Rose OLY

Shane Rose was introduced to horse riding as a five- year-old and it was love at first ride – although, his first pony Mickey Mouse was nothing like the loveable Disney character. Horse riding comes with dangers, but Roses’s worse injury occurred out of the saddle when a young thoroughbred he was teaching to go into a starting gate, kicked out and connected with the bottom of the face. The damage was horrendous. This is the near fatal story of Shane Rose.

Tilly Kearns OLY

Inspired from a young age to represent her country in sport by her father who was an Australian Rugby Union Wallaby legend, Tilly Kearns learnt from her family that hard work and achieving quietly are important life values. Tilly shares how she fell into the deep end playing water polo, her opinions on the claws and nails and how her journey to America has paved to the Australian natinoal team. #NSWISLightsUp

Noemie Fox

Growing up with two parents who’d represented their respective countries at the Olympic Games, and a sister who was destined for greatness, Noemie Fox learnt from an early age that hard work and determination are the requirements for success. Noemie opens up about pressure, courage and her incredible dream.

Noemie Fox NSWIS Lights Up

Sam Fricker OLY

One of the greatest aspects of his involvement in diving, says Sam Fricker, is how the sport has helped him develop many qualities, including self-esteem – an attribute he says that can’t be bought. Sam talks about the importance of chipping away to realise a plan and reach a goal as well as meeting Tom Cruise and his millions of social media followers.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 13: Australian diver Sam Fricker poses during an Australian 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games swim team portrait session at Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre on May 13, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Eleanor Patterson Oly

Two time Olympian Eleanor Patterson talks openly about her journey from an idyllic childhood in regional Victoria to becoming World Champion in high jump in 2022. She shares a personal insight into her support network – her family, her school teacher and her coach – and examines the deeper issues of being an elite athlete by defining athletic courage, delving into mindfulness and the importance of being in the moment during competition.


Since 1996 NSWIS has made an incredible contribution to the medal tallies at Olympic and Paralympic Games.