World Championship medallists have taken centre stage at the 2023 Paddle Australia Awards with a gala event on the Gold Coast celebrating the achievements of the paddling community over the past 12 months.
With six Olympic/Paralympic medals and 21 world championship titles between them, Jessica Fox and Curtis McGrath were recognised as joint winners of the Paddler of the Year (Olympic/Paralympic Disciplines) Award.
Fox was recognised for an outstanding season in which she achieved her tenth individual World Championship win and multiple World Cup medals. While McGrath [who was unable to attend the awards] made a stunning return to international competition this season, winning a bronze and gold medal at the 2023 ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships in Duisburg, Germany.
“It’s always special to be in that room celebrating everyone, their successes, their stories, anywhere from grassroots and community clubs through to high performance, so to win this award was really special,” Fox said
“To share it with Curt is really special, he’s an athlete that I look up to and admire and is a good friend. I am honoured to win this award.
“This season as a whole was a great success because of the races where I’ve performed well, and that resulted in a gold medal or a silver or bronze which are all special. But it’s those moments and those experiences, like racing on the Paris Olympic course, imagining what that could be like next year. It was standing on the podium with Noemie and Kate in that Teams event at the World Championship, and doing something that had never been done before.
“You know, those emotions are what I’m carrying and it’s been an amazing year and I am glad I get a bit of a break now and I can digest that and look forward to next year.”
Fox was also named in the 2023 Team of the Year Award alongside teammates Noemie Fox and Kate Eckhardt for the trio’s history making Kayak Team gold at the 2023 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships in Lee Valley, London.
Noemie said it was special to relive the excitement of the team’s win with the broader paddling community.
“For us it was such a special part of our World Championships and great to be able to share that with our family and friends who were on the ground, and to come back now and relive those moments and emotions and reunite as a team is really great. I’m so super grateful to be able to share this moment with the girls,” Noemie said.
World Champions Aly Bull and Jemma Smith took out the Paddler of the Year (Non-Olympic/Paralympic Disciplines) category for their international achievements across events or disciplines not contested at the Olympic/Paralympic Games.
For Bull, it was her back-to-back women’s K1 1000 world titles that secured her the gong.
“It’s always an honour to come to these events and be nominated, let alone recognised. This sport is what we love doing and nights like this are special, they make all of the hard work worth it,” Bull said.
“It’s such an inspiring room to be sitting in, you know, all these people are incredible and contribute so much, it’s amazing to be a part of such a community.
While they couldn’t be there to celebrate, Paralympian Dylan Littlehales and world champion Ben Sainsbury were named Paracanoeists of the Year after both recording winning results during the 2022-23 season.
Other winners on the night included canoe sprint rising star Claudia Bailey and Todd Boreland (Canoe Marathon) who were named Paddler of the Year (Junior) and Paddler of the Year (Master) respectively.
Outgoing Paddle Australia President Andrea McQuitty, and newly awarded Paddle Australia Life Member, said it was a great celebration of the Australian paddling community.
“One of the great things about paddling is the diversity within the community and within the sport. A night like this celebrates that, and allows us to bring all those different groups and disciplines together,” said McQuitty.
“It’s not only a good night in terms of recognising their achievements but also in bringing everyone together socially. The fact that it only happens once a year makes it even more special.”
2023 PADDLE AUSTRALIA AWARD WINNERS
- Paddler of the Year (Olympic/Paralympic Disciplines) – Jessica Fox (NSW) and Curtis McGrath (QLD)
- Paddler of the Year (Paracanoe) – Dylan Littlehales (NSW) and Ben Sainsbury (WA)
- Paddle of the Year (Non-Olympic/Paralympic Disciplines) – Aly Bull (QLD) and Jemma Smith (NSW)
- Paddler of the Year (Junior) – Claudia Bailey (QLD)
- Paddler of the Year (Master) – Todd Boreland (WA)
- Team of the Year – Senior Women’s Canoe Slalom Kayak Team (Jessica Fox, Noemie Fox, Kate Eckhardt)
- Coach of the Year – Myriam Fox (NSW)
- Club Coach of the Year – Demi O’Brien (WA)
- President’s Award – Far North Coast Canoe Club (NSW)
- Volunteer of the Year – Darren Forbes (NSW)
- Instructor/Guide of the Year – Allana Bold (QLD)
- Technical Official of the Year – Tracey Tapscott (SA) and Mark Bulmer (SA)
- Excellence Award – Peter Eckhardt (TAS)
- Olegas Truchanas Award – Richard Barnes
- Award of Merit – Jonathan Crowe (NSW), Don Marsh (TAS) and Shaun Rice (WA)
- Services to Paddling – Dean Gardiner (NSW), Siobhan Goble, and John Young (VIC)
- Life Membership – Rosalie Evans (WA) and Andrea McQuitty (TAS)
- Hall of Fame – Sue Natoli (VIC), Myriam Fox (NSW) and Richard Fox (NSW)
Article and image courtesy of Paddle Australia