Our Ambassadors

A4K Ambassador Summary

Aspirations4Kids in Sport is honoured to be associated with some of the world’s greatest sports’ people. Our Ambassadors’ successes are grounded in the disciplines they display to training, the commitment they exhibit to their sports, the ambition they have for success, and the resilience they demonstrate to adversity too often overwhelming those who are the best at what they do. Each A4K Ambassador has their own unique story to tell which means they are perfect role models and mentors to our recipients. A4K is most grateful for their association with our organisation and appreciate their endorsement for the work that we do. Here is a selection or our A4K Ambassadors.

Laura Geitz

Laura is one of the most recognised and regarded female role models in Australian Sport. The former Australian Diamonds Captain grew up in the small town of Allora on the Darling Downs. We are so proud that she has agreed to be one of our Ambassadors.

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In honour of Laura’s standing in sport and society as a whole Aspirations4Kids in Sport will present the Laura Geitz Award to an up and coming female athlete who shows the passion, commitment, resilience and positive values so embraced by this legend of sport. This will be presented annually at the A4K Celebration Luncheon.

Laura made her debut with the Queensland Firebirds in 2008. In her first year within the leadership group of the Firebirds in 2011, she helped lead the team to a record-breaking undefeated season, which was followed up with an ANZ Championship Grand Final appearance in 2013. Geitz was named Vice- Captain in 2011, and was named captain of the Firebirds in 2012. Her last game, after announcing her, pregnancy, was the 2016 ANZ Championship victory over the NSW Swifts. She was named Queensland.

Firebirds Player of the Year in 2010, Player’s Player in 2011 and Member’s Player of the Year in 2013. In 2015 Laura captained the Firebirds to fantastic nail-biting victory over the NSW Swifts to take out the ANZ Championship and backed that up, captaining the side to an even more emotion charged and inspiring double extra time victory in 2016. In 2018 Laura returned to the Firebirds team after spending 2017 enjoying time off after arrival of her son, Barney Ross Gilbride.

Cate Campbell – OAM

Cate is a true star of women’s sport. She won her first Olympic gold medal at the 2012 Summer London Olympics and a gold and a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. She is the current world record holder in the Long Course 4 x 100 m Freestyle Relay with Team Australia and the short course 100 m freestyle where she recently broke the world record in clocking a time of 50.25 – to take 0.33 seconds off the previous world mark set by Swedish superstar Sarah Sjostrom in August. So far in total she has won 2 Olympic Games gold medals, 2 World Championship Gold Medals, 4 Pan Pacific golds, 7 Commonwealth Games golds with four of these at the Games on the Gold Coast in 2018.

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When and where did you begin this sport?

Her mother, a former synchronised swimmer, taught her to swim as a baby in Africa. After she moved to Australia, she joined a local swimming club in Brisbane, Queensland. At age 15, she decided to take the sport more seriously with the aim of making the Olympic Games.

Why this sport?

Her mother, a former synchronised swimmer, taught her to swim as a baby in Africa. After she moved to Australia, she joined a local swimming club in Brisbane, Queensland. At age 15, she decided to take the sport more seriously with the aim of making the Olympic Games.

Club / Team / Coach

Commercial Swim Club: Brisbane, QLD, AUS and her coach is Simon Cusack

Hero / Idol

Australian swimmers Susie O’Neill and Grant Hackett.

Sporting philosophy / motto

“Live your fears, realise your dreams, attain your goals.”

Awards and honours

She was named 2014 Female Oceanic Swimmer of the Year in the Swimswam website’s Swammy Awards.
She was inducted into the Australian Path of Champions in 2014. The Path of Champions recognises the achievements of Australia’s top athletes.
She was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia [OAM] in the 2014 Australia Day Honours list. Her fellow 4x100m gold medallists from the 2012 Olympic Games in London also received the honour.

At the 2013 and 2014 Australian Swimmer of the Year Awards she was awarded the Swimmer of the Year and the Swimmer’s Swimmer Award in both years. In 2013 she won the People’s Choice Award and in 2014 she was named Georgina Hope Foundation Olympic Program Swimmer of the Year. With her 4x100m freestyle teammates she also won the Golden Moment Award for their world record breaking swim at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow

Cate’s brother Hamish is her biggest fan. A severely disabled younger brother who has cerebral palsy and needs around-the-clock care, Hamish is always on her mind as she steps up on the blocks. Cate often quotes that she values the work A4K does especially as we assist many other young kids with CP.

Holly Ferling

Holly first caught the eye of the cricket fraternity when, as a 14-year-old, she took a hat-trick with her first three balls in a men’s A-Grade cricket match in Kingaroy, Queensland*. On the back of this, and other standout performances at club level, Ferling was added to Queensland Fire’s rookie list at the age of 14. Following an impressive performance at the Under-18 National Championships in 2011-12, Ferling became the first female player to win the Ken Mackay Trophy for the Queensland Junior Cricketer of the Year.

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Her efforts also saw her called into the Commonwealth Bank Shooting Stars for their tour of New Zealand in early 2012.In her debut domestic season she earned a place in the Women’s National Cricket League (WNCL) 50-over Team of the Year and her performances did not go unnoticed by the national selectors, who rewarded her with a place in the squad for the ICC Women’s World Cup in India in 2013.

In India at the age of 17, Ferling announced herself on the international stage, taking 2-10 from three overs in Australia’s opening match of the tournament. She went on to take nine wickets during the World Cup and was named 12th man in the Team of the Tournament.

Alex Hartmann

In February 2016 Alex Hartmann ran the fastest 200 metre time by an Australian since 2006, finishing a race in Adelaide in 20.45 seconds. In April 2016 he was selected as part of the Australian team for the 2016 Summer Olympics, to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was chosen to represent the nation in the men’s 200 metre event after winning the Australian national title in a time of 20.46 seconds. He is the first male Australian competitor in the Olympic 200 metres since the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.

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Alex had the honour of competing in a home Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast and acquitted himself strongly missing the final by just one spot finishing 9th in the Commonwealth.

Alex Hartmann Men’s 200m Semi Finalist – Gold Coast Commonwealth Games April 2018

Brenden Hall – OAM

Brenden Hall was dead. He was six and, like a lot of six-year-olds, he caught a dose of the chickenpox. Unlike most six-year-olds, he was suddenly lying in a hospital, flatlining, while his parents were forced to make the decision between life and limb. Hall had reacted so severely to the virus that he had spent six weeks in hospital and developed DVT – deep vein thrombosis – in his right leg as a result. His condition worsened with multiple organ failures.Then he was gone. For 29 minutes.

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“It was during December, 1999,” Hall said. “I sort of just finished grade one and I contracted chicken pox, I got DVT in my lower right limb.

“They (the hospital) rang my parents up and said, ‘You better get in here, we’ve got a decision to make’. “It was either my leg or my life, because the day before, I’d flatlined for about 29min, roughly. “I was in cardiac arrest for 29min in hospital before they decided to take my leg off, due to the blood clot because it was in one of the main veins going back to my heart.”

Hall was saved, brought back from the dead. He had his life, but he had lost his right leg and much of his hearing. Apart from those small details, nothing had changed for the Queenslander; he was swimming before fate struck and he planned to swim again, as soon as possible. “I’d just started swimming competitively before I lost my limb,” he said.

“As soon as I lost it, I wanted to get straight back into it, I wanted to get back in the pool, I wanted to get back to school, back to my mates. “I worked towards (Beijing) and got there in the end, but the real goal was London. Now I’ve been here and done it, it’s a lot of hard work paid off.”

Hall this week marked a major milestone in his dramatic journey, winning 400m S9 Paralympic gold in world record time. He did not just win, he obliterated both the field – he won by more than seven seconds – and the previous mark, also held by him and which he trumped by almost four seconds. It was the 19-year-old’s second gold, after his role in the 4x100m freestyle relay and more could be on the way.He had his 50m freestyle overnight, races the heats of his 200m individual medley tomorrow night, and finishes with the 100m freestyle and backstroke competitions on Friday.

“Thank God my parents made the right choice, otherwise I wouldn’t be here today swimming,” Hall said. “Unfortunately, it was a bit of a rare type of thing to happen, but it is quite possible.”I had a specialist come over from Canada onto my case, because (the doctors here) hadn’t seen anything like it before, but they had a case overseas.

“Two months later, because of my case, they brought the chicken pox vaccine out to Australia to start distributing for kids.”It’s (chickenpox) something for kids to experience, but there definitely are those rare situations behind it that you don’t want to risk.”

Emily Seebohm – OAM

We are so lucky to have Emily as one of our Ambassadors. One of Australia’s all-time great swimmers she swims the backstroke, freestyle, butterfly and medley she has won 2 Olympic Gold, 5 World Championships, 4 Pan Pacific and 7 Commonwealth Games Gold Medals. Emily was introduced to the water before she could walk, and began competing at age five. She chose swimming because her mother Karen was a swimming teacher. She is a member of the Brisbane Grammar Swim Club and is coached by Jacco Verhaeren [national], and David Lush [personal], from 2015.

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One of her superstitions is to always put her cap on from the back of her head to the front. Emily’s sporting philosophy / motto is “Be the best you can be.”

Some of her awards and honours include the naming of the Emily Seebohm Aquatic Centre in the suburb of Fitzgibbon near Bracken Ridge by the Brisbane City Council in 2016. She was jointly named the 2015 Female Australian Swimmer of the Year.

She shared the award with Bronte Campbell. She won the award outright in 2017. She was named the 2014 Short Course Swimmer of the Year by Swimming Australia.

She was presented with the Medal of the Order of Australia [OAM] in 2009 for services to sport.

Mitch Larkin – OAM

Mitch Larkin began swimming at age eight and became involved with the sport when his third grade school teacher encouraged him to join the weekly school swimming club. Since then Mitch has won 4 World Championship long and short course gold medals, a silver medal in the Rio Olympics and 7 Commonwealth Games gold medals 5 of which at the Gold Coast in 2018.

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Club / Team

St Peters Western: Australia

Name of coach

Dean Boxall [club]; Jacco Verhaeren [national], NED

Hero / Idol

Swiss tennis player Roger Federer.

Sporting Philosophy / Motto

“The will to win is the will to prepare to win. The harder you work, the sweeter the victory.”

Awards and honours

He was named the International Swimming Federation [FINA] Male Swimmer of the Year in 2015. He was recognised with the Swimmer’s Swimmer of the Year award at the 2015 Australian Swimmer of the Year Awards.

Lakeisha Patterson – OAM

At A4K we often say that most of our recipients have qualities that can’t be taught, our recipients display the inner strength to take on adversity and in so many cases triumph! A great case in point is Lakeisha “Lucky” Patterson who has multiple disabilities such as Epilepsy, cerebral palsy, early onset Parkinson and micrographia.“Lucky” found swimming, was given an S8 disability qualification and is now breaking world records, competing for Australia in the Commonwealth Games and was selected in the Paralympic team in Rio in August 2017 where she won a gold medal and recognised the work done by A4K.

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A Paralympic golden girl Lakeisha Patterson has added Commonwealth Games gold to her already prodigious trophy case. Competing up a division, Lakeisha, also known as ‘lucky’ sharply contested the S9 100m freestyle final, touching the wall in 1:03.02, barely .05 seconds in front of England’s Alice Tai.A personal best time for Patterson, she also edged out teammates Ellie Cole (1:03.36), who claimed bronze, and Emily Beecroft who was fourth in 1:03.76. “I’m on cloud nine. I can’t even put into words how I’m feeling,” Patterson said after the race. “I knew it was going to be hard. It was a tough field and swimming up a division is a mammoth effort.

“Those girls come out hard in the first 50m so I knew if I could stay with them I’d have a chance to bring it home.” Aspirations4Kids in Sport has been able to assist “Lucky” with some funding and other support. Hers is a truly inspirational story! And there is so many more like “Lucky” who need the support that we are going to offer now and into the future.

Already we have assisted over 400 families via our Aspirations4Kids in Sport project and we are looking to really ramp this up in the upcoming years such is the need in our community.

Our Recent Success Stories

Joseph Deng

It was so rewarding to see our first ever Aspirations4Kids in Sport recipient (February 2012) Joseph Deng’s journey from refugee camp to representing Australia.

Joseph Deng cannot remember much about his early years in Kenya, where he was born in a refugee camp.

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But one memory does stand out for the Australian Commonwealth Games representative: his first experience competing against someone in a running race.

“When I was a pretty young kid my cousins used to live in Eldoret, where most of the famous runners are,” Deng told the ABC.

“I actually ran there, not like a competition, I just ran in the street. The first race was against one of the neighbours.

“I fell in a hole and rolled my ankle and then I started crying because he beat me.”

Deng’s athletics career has come a long way since that day in Eldoret, which is regarded as the spiritual home of Kenyan middle and long distance running.

He reached a significant milestone by placing seventh in the men’s 800m final at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, but it is his family’s remarkable journey to this point that is his greatest achievement.

Deng’s mother Rebecca fled Sudan amid civil unrest and ended up in a UNHCR refugee camp in the Kenyan town of Kakuma, where she gave birth to her son in 1998.

Children living in Kenyan refugee camps have been vulnerable to many health concerns, such as malaria, dysentery and respiratory infections, while adequate shelter, food security and child protection are also major issues.

Moving out of Kakuma was a priority, and when Deng was six he and his mother and sister Margaret were able to relocate to Australia, settling in Toowoomba in south-east Queensland.

At age 12, Deng and his family moved to Ipswich where he met one of the greatest influences on his young career, coach Di Sheppard.

aspirations4kids in sport our ambassadors joseph deng

aspirations4kids in sport our ambassadors joseph deng

aspirations4kids in sport our ambassadors joseph deng

Source – http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-13/dengs-journey-to-representing-australia/9654008

aspirations4kids in sport paige leaonhardt

Paige Leonhardt

At the age of five Paige she was involved in a car accident that left her with severe injuries. She spent four years recovering. The accident left her with hemiplegia on her right side as well as intracranial hypertension, epilepsy and autism. The intracranial hypertension means that she regularly needs to have excess fluid on the brain removed via a spinal tap.

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The calcium build-up behind her eyes causes drusen which will one day lead to a loss of eyesight. Paige found squad swimming in March 2012 to assist her rehabilitation. Having received a S10 swimming classification She competed at the 2016 Rio Paralympics in six events. She qualified for the final in Women’s 100m butterfly S10 finishing in sixth place and Women’s 100m breaststroke finishing sixth. She also competed in the following events but didn’t progress to the finals: Women’s 50m freestyle S10, Women’s 100m Freestyle S10, Women’s 100m Backstroke S10 and Women’s 200m Individual Medley SM10.

In the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast she competed in the 100 m breastroke in the SB8 classification winning the silver medal. We are very proud of Paige’s achievements against such great adversity.

aspirations4kids in sport paige leaonhardtaspirations4kids in sport paige leaonhardt

Our Past Success Stories – Roll of Honour

Some of our other big names that we have assisted and gone onto State and National Honours include:

  • Athletics Olympic Gold Medallist Sally Pearson
  • Wallaby David Pocock
  • Former Reds player Ben Daley
  • Jamie Lee Lewis (Wally’s daugher) the first person to be selected to represent Australia in a hearing sport after being chosen in the Australian junior women’s water polo team
  • Triathlon champion Ashleigh Gentle
  • Women’s Roar Soccer star Brook Spence
  • Joseph Deng 800m 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2016 World Junior Athletics Championships in Bydzogsh Poland
  • Paige Leonhardt 100m Breaststroke 2018 Commonwealth Games