Ash Barty makes Aussie sporting history with prestigious Don Award

Ash Barty, pictured here with husband Garry Kissick at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2019.
Ash Barty with husband Garry Kissick at the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2019. Image: Getty

Ash Barty has won the prestigious Don Award for a second time, becoming just the third athlete to claim the gong more than once. The award, named in recognition of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame's inaugural inductee Sir Donald Bradman, is considered the highest honour in Australian sport.

The gong is awarded to an athlete or team which has provided the most inspiration to Australia over the past year through performance and example. Despite shocking the sporting world in March when she announced her retirement from tennis at just 25, Barty was announced as the winner on Thursday night after her heroics at the Australian Open in January.

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Barty became the first Aussie to win the Australian Open in 44 years. She was World No.1 when she announced her shock decision to walk away from the sport.

Barty also won the Don Award in 2019. She joins Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sally Pearson (2012 and 2014) and Olympic champion pole vaulter Steve Hooker (2008 and 2009) as multiple winners of the award.

"This year was certainly my most enjoyable Australian Open ... because it felt free," Barty said on the Seven Network's special 'Sport Australia Hall of Fame: Heroes and Legends'. "I played without consequence, I played like a little kid.

"In my eyes, there was no pressure. It was just about me trying to redeem myself, in a way, and playing how I'd always wanted to play - go out there and play like the kid that fell in love with sport."

Barty once again shot down any notion that she'll be making a comeback to professional sport one day. She said: "In my mind there was never going to be a perfect ending, but it was my perfect ending.

"It was never about finishing on a win or on a really high emotional feeling. It was just about collectively, I felt it was right. Now (that decision) has led to nine months of just an incredible life off the court. It's been amazing."

Australian Open director Craig Tiley was among the many to congratulate Barty on social media. Fans and commentators flocked to Twitter to pay tribute.

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Peter Norman wins Dawn Award

Meanwhile, late Olympian Peter Norman was honoured with The Dawn Award on Thursday night. Named after swimming legend Dawn Fraser, the award recognises a courageous ground-breaker who has demonstrated achievement against the odds and challenged the status quo.

Norman was part of one of the most iconic photos in Olympics history at the medal ceremony after the men's 200m final in the 1968 Mexico Olympics when he supported fellow athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos. Smith and Carlos raised their gloved fists in protest of the treatment of African-Americans in the United States, a stance widely known as the 'Black Power' Salute.

Wearing the Olympic Project for Human Rights badge, Norman stood in solidarity with the American pair. The Aussie was criticised for the move when he returned home.

Tommie Smith, Peter Norman and John Carlos, pictured here at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
Tommie Smith, Peter Norman and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Image: Getty

"Tommie and John were discussing about the gloves, and then it was found that John had left his gloves behind. So they then decided to wear a glove each," Norman's wife Jan said about the famous moment.

"Peter was keen to support them somehow. As they were heading out to the ceremony, there was an American rower, and he had his badge on - the Olympic Project for Human Rights. Peter acquired the badge and very proudly wore that badge on the dais. There were some boos and jeers. That's when Peter knew what's all happening."

Smith and Carlos demonstrated their respect and admiration for Norman when they came to Australia to deliver eulogies and be pallbearers at his funeral in 2006. Norman's time of 20.06 seconds in that Olympic final in 1968 is still an Australian record and was enough to get him the silver medal.

with AAP

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