The next generation of the State’s canoe sprint high performance athletes were warmly welcomed by the NSW Institute of Sport (NSWIS) last week, when they attended a special athlete induction at the High Performance Hub at Narrabeen.

Ten aspiring athletes, who have their sights set on wearing the green and gold, met Olympians Ken Wallace, who won gold in the men’s 500m K1 at the Beijing Games and Jo Brigden-Jones, who represented Australia at the London and Tokyo Olympic Games.

“Jo had an incredible impact on the athletes,” NSWIS Senior High Performance Manager Anna Longman said.

“She spoke about when she was an athlete at Narrabeen – she trained out of a tin shed, changed in car park, and had to drive offsite to see physio. It was a grounding point for the athletes to realise how fortunate they were, considering the access they have to the new high performance facilities and support services.

“And it was inspiring for the athletes to be aware of her determination, longevity and success in the NSWIS system and challenged them to think about their own legacy.”

The NSWIS athlete induction set the scene and expectations for the program in 2024, made them feel part of a wider sports organisation and showcased where they are in the pathway, the role of NSWIS and what their future can look like.

The day started with the opportunity for NSWIS High Performance staff to learn how to paddle in the kayaks.

“There was a massive appreciation from staff of how difficult it is to sit in the K1. The ice breaker set the tone for the day and facilitated better integration between staff and athletes – there were lots of laughs,” Longman said.

After helping the NSWIS experts get out of their boats – and the water – the athletes were provided with an overview of the depth and breadth of the Institute’s support in their journey to become world’s best.

“We provided the athletes with a toolkit of everything they require to support them in their high performance journey – key contacts at NSWIS for their performance health needs, access to athlete education, requirements for the medical screening and who their representatives are on the NSWIS Athlete Advisory Group,” Longman said.

Brigden-Jones shared snippets of her high performance journey and the incredible support she received from her coaches and the staff at NSWIS.

“Use your coaches and have really good communication. Tell them what you need because they’re always going to match it. They want to be there for you and to get the most out of you. Then use the good support in the gym, the physio, from all the NSWIS staff. It’s at such a high level that you can get so much out of every single staff member,” Brigden-Jones said.

Olympic gold medallist Ken Wallace, who is the National Performance Pathways Lead (Sprint) for Paddle Australia, was able to communicate to athletes how their pathway will transition from NSWIS to the national training centre on the Gold Coast.

As a retired athlete with a wealth of experience, technical knowledge and established sport system relationships, he has implemented a successful talent ID and transfer program at the Queensland Academy of Sport.

“NSWIS manages developing and emerging athletes and it’s our goal to transition them to the Gold Coast to the national training centre with Ken,” Longman said.

“Overall the athlete induction is a chance to pause and recalibrate and identify expectations and behaviours.”

The NSWIS athlete induction is being rolled out across all sports over the coming months, with aspiring swimmers to be inducted onto scholarship in late October.

Frances Cordaro, NSWIS

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