by Craig Heydon
Three Australian Sailing Team members will be prominent this Australia Day with head coach Victor Kovalenko and London 2012 Paralympic Games gold medallists Daniel Fitzgibbon and Liesl Tesch acting as official ambassadors this weekend.
Daniel Fitzgibbon & Liesl Tesch with their gold medals
Victor Kovalenko coached Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page to gold in the 470 class at London 2012 and will be heading to Armidale while Australia’s Paralympic Games Skud 18 gold medallists will be a little closer to home, with Fitzgibbon the ambassador for Warringah and Tesch for Gosford.
Kovalenko, who is Australia’s most successful Olympic sailing coach with five gold medals, plus two gold medals for his native Ukraine, said that he was looking forward to heading to Armidale, in rural New South Wales to share his story on Australia Day.
'Originally I was asked to be an ambassador in Sydney but I said that I would like to be an ambassador in a rural, inland area.' said Kovalenko. 'Sydney is spoilt with people on Australia Day'.
'I want to speak to real Australians, speak with farmers and link our sport of sailing to people in the country,' he said. 'Our farmers have an important mission, to feed our people, and I look forward to sharing the success sailing had in London with them.'
Kovalenko, who received an Order of Australia Medal in 2012, will speak at a reception in Armidale on Australia Day, before attending a number of functions in the town.
'Representing Australians and sailing in Armidale this Australia Day is a huge privilege for me and I’m honoured to be involved,' he said.
London 2012 Paralympic Games gold medal winning skipper Daniel Fitzgibbon will be the Australia Day ambassador for Warringah council, his adopted home town on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
Fitzgibbon’s gold medal in 2012 was Australia’s first Paralympic gold since Sydney 2000, and came four years after he won silver in Beijing.
Fitzgibbon will attend a flag raising ceremony at Dee Why beach on Saturday morning before traveling to functions around the area during the day.
'Australia Day is a great day and a great opportunity for me as a very proud Australian,' said Fitzgibbon. 'A lot of people know that my dream was to hear the Australian anthem in Weymouth and see the flag raised and I was lucky to do that.
20120810 Copyright onEdition 2012© Free for editorial use image, please credit: onEdition Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page (AUS) who won the Gold Medal today, 10.08.12, in the Medal Race Men's Two Person Dinghy (470) event in The London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition. The London 2012 Olympic Sailing Competition runs from 29 July to 12 August and brings together 380 of the world's best sailors to race on Weymouth Bay. Sailing made its Olympic debut in 1900 and has appeared at every Olympic Gam
'It was a great moment for myself and the team and I look forward to sharing that experience with others on Australia Day,' he said. 'I’m looking forward to getting out there and telling people my story while sharing the Paralympic message.'
Liesl Tesch be Gosford’s Australia Day ambassador. The six-time Paralympian was this week named 2013 Gosford Citizen of the Year.
'It was a big surprise,' said Tesch. 'There were so many people who do such great things for the community, it was a real honour.'
London 2012 was Tesch’s first Paralympics as a sailor, teaming up with Fitzgibbon just 18 months beforehand.
The pair was at the front of the fleet all week in Weymouth, winning gold with a race to spare. Fitzgibbon and Tesch overcame a tough week off the water to win, with Tesch’s mother passing away after a battle with cancer at the end of the first day of racing.
Australian Sailing Team