2021 will go down as WSM’s biggest year to date and was highlighted by numerous impressive feats from our talent. Capturing much of the nation’s sporting attention in 2021 were the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, with WSM proudly having a total of 14 athletes in the Land of the Rising Sun for the Games (12 at the Olympics and 2 at the Paralympics).
The postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics proved to be a blessing in disguise for Kyle Chalmers who successfully underwent shoulder surgery last year which would have otherwise seen him miss the Games. He came back and won a Silver Medal in the 100m freestyle final in Tokyo in addition to carrying Australia to two Bronze Medals in the 4 x 100m and 4 x 200m men’s freestyles.
Not content with that, Kyle set a new World Record in the men’s 100m freestyle SC in the FINA World Cups later in the year, featured in Amazon Prime’s landmark Head Above Water documentary series and partnered with renowned men’s grooming brand Wahl as a brand ambassador.
Elsewhere in the pool, Madi Wilson added to her Olympic medal tally by winning Gold and Bronze as part of Australia’s successful 4 x 100m and 4 x 200m women’s freestyle teams. Also featuring in that Bronze-winning Australian team was Brianna Throssell who won Gold in the 4 x 100m medley and another Bronze in the 4 x 100m mixed medley.
Rising star Elijah Winnington made his Olympics debut after impressing at the Australian Swimming Trials and reached the final of the 400m freestyle final in addition to winning Bronze alongside Kyle in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay final.
Teenage sensation Keegan Palmer made history in Tokyo by becoming the inaugural Gold Medalist in park skateboard as the event made its Olympic debut in Tokyo. South Australian rower Alex Hill won Gold in the coxless four rowing event in an Olympic record time. Tasmania’s Jake Birtwhistle overcame plenty of adversity to place 16th in the men’s triathlon final – a year best result.
Sprinter Riley Day became an overnight sensation following her performances in the 200m semi-final where she recorded a personal best time. Prior to the Games the humble Beaudesert-native was a Woolworths worker and ended it with an ambassadorial role for the supermarket giants. Fellow Queenslander Cedric Dubler etched himself into Olympic folklore for his in-race motivation of teammate Ash Moloney, helping his compatriot win Bronze in the Decathlon.
Long jumper Brooke Stratton repeated her Olympic best performance in the Long Jump final by placing seventh (even with torn ligaments in her knee!) while Jess Hull placed 11th in the final of the 1500m race by running an Australian national record time in the semi-final in what was her Olympics debut. In the men’s 1500m final, Stewy McSweyn finished seventh to record Australia’s best result in the race since 1960, a performance he complimented by finishing the Diamond League season strongly and rounding out the year as ranked #3 in the world for the men’s 1500m.
Vanessa Low surpassed her world record three times in the Long Jump T63 to win her second Gold Medal in her third Paralympics while Isis Holt won two Silver Medals in the 100m T35 and 200m T35 events to repeat her exploits from Rio de Janeiro five years earlier.
AFL Great Eddie Betts called it a day and celebrated it with game number 350 as he retired as one of the game’s most loved players of the past two decades. Off the field, Eddie played a prominent part in Amazon Prime’s ‘Making Their Mark’ documentary series and secured ambassadorial partnership with the likes of Coles, Telstra, Uber and Colgate.
Western Bulldogs cult hero Lin Jong was forced to make the difficult decision of stepping away from the game after another injury setback. The popular midfielder played 65 games at AFL level and in the process became the first Australian of East Timorese and Taiwanese descent to play in the competition.
Elsewhere at the Kennel, ruckman Jordon Sweet made his AFL debut in April and was rewarded for his hard work via an extension to his contract at Whitten Oval. WSM’s AFL ranks were further bolstered with the signing of Port Adelaide superstar forward Charlie Dixon in November.
Brodie Smith became the 20th player in Adelaide’s history to clock 200 games for the Crows in July while his former teammates Brad Crouch and Kyle Hartigan adapted well to their new surroundings at St Kilda and Hawthorn respectively, Brad finished the season finishing Top 5 in the Best and Fairest. Hoping to do something similar in 2022 will be ex-Crow Tyson Stengle who will recontinue his AFL career in the new year after signing with Geelong in November.
Ashleigh Gardner and Tayla Vlaeminck continued to excel on the domestic and international level for Australia’s National Women’s Cricket Team. Off the pitch, Ashleigh also launched the ‘Ashleigh Gardner Foundation’ which aims to increase the percentage of Aboriginal kids finishing high school while Tayla became a Cadbury ambassador and headlined their ‘Get In The Game’ campaign.
On the football front, Emma Checker, Alex Chidiac and Jenna McCormick all earned call-ups to the Matildas camp throughout 2021 with Dylan Holmes making her senior national team debut when she featured for the Matildas during their friendly against the Netherlands in April. All four players also secured key overseas club transfers throughout the year in Iceland, Japan, Denmark and Sweden.
John Aloisi returned to the coaching dugout after being appointed as Western United’s new manager while Daniel De Silva and Nikola Mileusnic signed high-profile A-League deals with Macarthur and Brisbane Roar respectively while Daniel Margush established himself as one of the A-League’s best young goalkeepers after an impressive debut season with the Western Sydney Wanderers.
Bec Hewitt made her return to TV screens after appearing on Channel Seven’s ‘Dancing with the Stars’ having originally appeared on the show during its inaugural season in 2004. Sam Groth continued to expand his on-camera talents on Postcards and various other shows and programs on Channel Nine.
We would like to congratulate all our talent for all they have achieved throughout the course of 2021. The challenges presented by the pandemic continued into the new year but they persevered and continued to inspire us through their professional exploits and endeavours, and wish all of them all the very best into the new year.