Anything is possible . . . a lesson from an Olympic Gold Medallist
“Dream big and believe that anything is possible.”
That was the message delivered by Wagga’s first ever Olympic gold medallist, Alicia Quirk who late last week gave up her time to speak at the inaugural ‘Wagga Winter Sports Breakfast’ supported by Beyond Bank.
As the father of two young children, the message really struck a chord with me. As a parent you do the best you can to instil positive behaviours and habits in your children. We often tell our own children that anything is possible if you really set your mind to it and work hard.
Alicia’s parents were no different.
She told the story of a supportive family environment where her parents actively encouraged her to play any sport her heart desired. She tried her hand at nearly all of them and was successful in many representing NSW in basketball and touch football before making the national team in the latter.
In 2011 Alicia received a letter that changed her life forever. It was from the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and it was an invitation for her to try her hand at the sport of Rugby Sevens, which was scheduled to be a new addition to the Olympic calendar soon.
Alicia decided to embrace the opportunity and chance her hand at a new sport. The hardest part was telling the people at touch football that she was leaving the game. It was a game that had given her so much but in order for her to see how far she could go in her new sport, Alicia decided to focus her efforts solely on Rugby Sevens.
Success soon came, as too did disappointment. After being left out of a World Cup squad in 2013 Alicia steeled herself and vowed never to experience that feeling of disappointment again.
She trained harder, longer and with a commitment unmatched by many. She spent countless hours doing the little extras that separate the elite from the rest and it all came to fruition when she was announced in Australia’s first ever Rugby Sevens squad for the Rio Olympics in 2016.
For Alicia and her teammates, that was simply the beginning of a journey they were determined to see through. In the weeks and months that followed, they worked even harder and drove each other towards the end goal. Alicia described a strong sense of trust in the group and a feeling of togetherness and strength. Deep down they knew that this would put them in a good position come the Olympics.
They were rewarded with a gold medal.
Alicia Quirk had become the first ever gold medallist to hail from the regional NSW town of Wagga.
As Alicia recounted this story of hard work and persistence, I couldn’t help but notice the front table in the room. At the table were a group of young female soccer players from the local Wagga area. You could see in their eyes that they were inspired by Alicia’s personal story. It was not that long ago that Alicia was probably going to the same school as them and training and playing on the same fields and courts.
I am sure that one or two of them must have been thinking that one day this could be their story. As a parent, it was great to see the positive impact that Alicia was clearly having on these young people in that moment.
I saw Alicia later that day in the airport and she said something that stuck with me.
When I suggested that it was an enormous effort for her to travel back to Wagga for just one speaking commitment, she pondered the question a little and said that she didn’t feel that way at all. She said she would always have time for the people of Wagga as it is a community that has given her so much. In her mind, she would not be where she was today without the support of her local community.
Alicia dared to dream big but she has never forgotten where she started.