The ASC held the third annual AIS Sport Performance Awards (ASPAs) on 14 December 2016, recognising and celebrating the outstanding achievements of Australian athletes, teams, coaches and administrators. Awards were presented across ten categories, including two people’s choice awards decided by public vote, for performances achieved during the 2016 calendar year.
In addition to the 10 category awards, Gary West (cycling), best known for his role as coach of champion cyclist Anna Meares, was inducted into the AIS ‘Best of Best’.
Male athlete of the year
Kyle Chalmers – swimming
Australian swimming unearthed a superstar in 2016 when 18-year-old Kyle broke a 48-year drought to win gold in the blue riband 100-metre freestyle at the Rio Olympics.
His performance won him Swimming Australia’s Golden Moment of the Year Award and the Olympic program Swimmer of the Year award. On the way to that victory he broke the world junior record in the heat, semi-final and final. He then backed up to help Australia to bronze in the 4 x 100-metre freestyle and 4 x 100-metre medley relays. Kyle’s maturity and modesty throughout the Olympics defied his young age.
Female athlete of the year
Kim Brennan - rowing
Kim has been one of rowing’s most consistent international performers in recent years and her crowning moment was winning gold in the women’s single sculls at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
The 31-year-old’s victory was the first time Australia had won an Olympic women’s sculling gold medal and Australia’s second-ever female Olympic rowing gold medal. Kim is a true leader, sitting on the rowing team’s leadership group, Rowing Australia Athletes’ Commission and the Australian Olympic Council’s Athletes’ Commission.
Emerging athlete of the year
Curtis Luck - golf
In 12 months Curtis moved from the 27th-ranked Australian amateur to world No. 2 amateur. In that time the young Perth golfer has won his state Open Championship against the leading players of the Australian PGA Tour and represented Western Australia for a fifth time at senior level — all by the age of 20.
Curtis then won a record eight consecutive holes to charge to the prestigious US Amateur Championship and set up major championship appearances throughout 2017. The following month he was part of the Australian team which won the Eisenhower Trophy — amateur golf’s highest team accolade — by a record-equalling margin.
Team of the year
Australian women’s team - rugby sevens
In 2016 the Australian women’s rugby sevens team won the first gold medal for the new Olympic sport defeating New Zealand at the Rio Games. The gold medal capped a year of dominance, with the team also winning its first world championship.
The team won the first three tournaments of the 12-team series, along with a third and a second placing to win by a margin of 16 points. The team is highly regarded for its conduct on and off the field with the players being outstanding ambassadors for rugby and women’s sport.
Award for leadership
Kate McLoughlin - Australian Paralympic Committee
Kate was Australia’s first female Chef de Mission of a Paralympic Team. Her leadership and support for the 177 athletes and 150 officials leading up to and during the Rio Paralympic Games generated wide praise from the national federations, athletes and staff on the Australian Paralympic Team in Rio.
Kate brought back team captains which lead to the instigation of ‘The Mob’, where athletes and team members shared experiences to help understand their place within the history of the Paralympic movement in Australia.
Para performance of the year
Australian Steelers - wheelchair rugby
One of the enduring memories of the 2016 Paralympic Games was the Steelers’ epic victory in the gold medal clash against arch rival the United States of America. The double overtime victory backed up their London 2012 Paralympic gold and confirmed their world No. 1 ranking.
The Rio win was that much sweeter because it came against the team the Steelers had never beaten in a major international competition. Spearheaded by the sport’s best player, Ryley Batt, the Steelers became the first team to successfully defend a Paralympic wheelchair rugby title.
Coach of the year
Michael Blackburn - sailing
Michael became a back-to-back Olympic gold-medal winning coach when Tom Burton won the Laser class at the Rio Games in 2016, a race that will be remembered for Tom and Michael’s tactical brilliance. This win followed Tom Slingsby’s victory in London 2012. Michael also coaches Matt Wearn, who jostled with Tom for No. 1 spot in world sailing laser rankings for a year before the Olympics.
Michael was an instrumental part of the Australian Sailing Rio coaching and support team, and in the very successful technology program that supported our sailing team before the Games.
Team of the year – public vote
Western Bulldogs - AFL
The Western Bulldogs broke a 62-year premiership drought in defeating the Sydney Swans by 22-points, in front of a crowd of almost 100,000 at Melbourne Cricket Ground. The Bulldogs, having finished the season seventh on the ladder, embarked on a fairy-tale run through the finals series culminating with victory over the ladder-topping Swans.
Sporting moment of the year – media vote
Sporting Moment of the Year - media vote
Australia had not won the Olympic men’s 100-metre freestyle since 1968, but nobody saw the 18-year-old coming. With an incredible finishing burst, Kyle flashed home to win Olympic gold. He also helped Australia to two bronze medals in the 4 x 100-metre freestyle and medley relays.
The ABC sports personality of the year – public vote
Chloe Esposito - modern pentathlon
Chloe came from seventh position in the final event — the run-shoot — to overhaul the field in a thrilling race and claim an historic gold medal at Rio. It was Australia’s first medal in modern pentathlon and catapulted the sport, and Chloe, into the public eye. Chloe’s engaging personality and passion for the sport endeared her to the Australian public as she became one of the faces of Australia’s Olympic campaign.