Tokyo 2020 Olympic champion rowers Lucy Stephan OAM, Jessica Morrison OAM and Rosie Popa OAM [women’s four] and Paralympic tennis champion Dylan Alcott OAM have been announced as joint winners of the 2021 Victorian Institute of Sport’s [VIS] Award of Excellence.

Lucy, Jessica and Rosie were three of the four members to win Olympic gold in the women’s coxless four in Tokyo. They held off the Netherlands by less than half a second to win with an Olympic record time of 6:15.37.

Each year the VIS award finalists and winners are selected by a judging panel consisting of VIS CEO, board members and media commentator Sam Lane as an independent contributor. The performance period for the 2021 awards was from 21 October 2019 to 1 October 2021. The 2021 VIS Award of Excellence event was scheduled for the 26 February 2022 but got cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Dylan finished his fourth and final Paralympics successfully defending his wheelchair Quad Paralympics singles gold medal and winning silver in the Quad doubles. He finished the year as the only man in tennis history to win a Golden Slam [all four Slam titles and a Paralympic or Olympic gold medal] and also won the VIS 2021 Para Athlete award.

Triple Olympian Anabelle Smith [Diving] receives the Sarah Tait Spirit award, recognising the athlete who most encompasses the spirt of the VIS.

Like the award’s namesake, the late Olympic rower Sarah Tait, Anabelle is an inspiration in life as well as Diving. The Rio 2016 bronze medallist is one of the most giving athletes within the Australian sporting community and will always put her hand up to give back to her sport and the community in general to inspire the next generation of athletes and leaders.

Hidden beneath her bright, bubbly and unassuming demeanour, Anabelle is an extremely tough, gritty and resilient athlete. To be able to handle everything that has been thrown her way in the last two years, from cancelled events to several interstate relocations, has been nothing short of remarkable, and she always continues to do so with a positive mindset on life.

Elena Galiabovitch took out the Australia Performance Lifestyle award, which recognises the athlete who has achieved personal excellence in their studies, career ambitions, and/or work setting whilst pursuing their dual sporting career, epitomizing the VIS motto of ‘Success in Sport and Life.’

For the past two years Elena has been working on two fronts – as Dr Galiabovitch working on Melbourne’s medical frontline including caring for some of the most seriously ill COVID-19 patients, while as an elite athlete living in Victoria’s extended lockdowns she was forced to constantly adapt her training remotely, shooting via a simulator.

Despite the long training hours and unpredictable workload, Elena earned her second Olympic berth in Tokyo where she competed in the women’s 10m air pistol and the 25m pistol events.

She was also recognised by the International Olympic Committee [IOC] for her frontline efforts, chosen by the IOC to carry the Olympic flag at the Opening Ceremony – an honour she describes as the “greatest in her sporting career.”

Para-athletics sensation Jaryd Clifford took out the Rising Star award.

Fourteen athletes were also named winners of the 2021 Coach awards, which are presented to an athlete in each VIS sport program who is the most deserving within this calendar year.

2021 Coach Awards winners:

Laura Peel – Aerials

Nick Hum – Athletics

Emily Petricola – Cycling

Nina Phan – Diving

Aiden Didone – Golf

Joshua Simmonds – Hockey [men’s]

Aisling Utri – Hockey [women’s]

Taylah Brown – Netball

Alex Viney – Rowing

Tess Lloyd – Sailing

Penny Smith – Shooting

Col Pearse – Swimming

Shae Graham [individual scholarship program, Wheelchair Rugby]

Kipp Smith [future talent]

Source: AOC