Australia is well known for producing incredible athletes who dominate the world sporting stage and inspire us each and every day. We’ve rounded up seven of the best, who each have plenty to teach us about what it means to be a great athlete and an awesome role model.
1. Sam Kerr
Image: Adam Davy, AP
The Matildas’ co-captain, Sam Kerr, has well and truly cemented her place in Australian sporting history. The Perth-born superstar is hot property in the football world, with a knack for scoring spectacular goals and celebrating with equally spectacular acrobatics! She has achieved so much in her career, including being voted the 2018 Young Australian of the Year, winning the ESPY Award for Best International Women’s Soccer Player three times, and appearing on the cover of FIFA23, the first woman ever to do so.
Off the pitch, Sam is a vocal advocate for gender equality within the sporting world and often uses her influence to push for more funding for women’s sports. She celebrates her Indian heritage and her identity as a queer woman with pride, and strives to make sport a more welcoming place for everyone. ‘I always try and make everyone feel welcome, and by being who I am, allow them to be who they are. I think that's the most beautiful part of sport: all these different people coming together to achieve something great.’
2. Ash Barty
Image: Ash Barty on Twitter @ashbar96.
Ash Barty is a legend both on and off the court. In 2019, aged just 23, Ash became only the second Australian woman to be ranked number one tennis player in the world – joining fellow legend and First Nations woman Evonne Goolagong Cawley. Her rise to the top started with an epic victory at the 2019 French Open and finished with a huge win on home soil at the 2022 Australian Open. As if that’s not impressive enough, she also played professional cricket in the Australian Women's Big Bash League.
When she wasn't serving up winners, Ash, as the National Indigenous Tennis Ambassador for Tennis Australia, spent her time encouraging young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to pick up a racket. She retired from professional tennis at the young age of 25, in order to put her health and wellbeing first. ‘Success for me is knowing that I’ve given absolutely everything that I can,’ she said. ‘I know physically I have nothing more to give, and that, for me, is success.’
3. Tony Armstrong
Image: Martin Keep, AFL Photos
While you’re probably used to seeing Tony Armstrong’s smiling face on the telly, or in that viral video, the ABC sports reporter actually got his start playing AFL. After debuting in 2008, he played for only six years before being delisted and leaving the sport at age 25. He soon found a new career in the media – starting out as an AFL radio commentator for the National Indigenous Radio Service before working his way up to becoming the permanent sports reporter for the national broadcaster.
While he says the end of his footy career was a tough blow, it taught him an important lesson: it’s fine to fail at something, because sometimes that failure helps you to find other things you’re good at and love doing. After winning two Logie awards (and capturing the nation's heart), Tony has definitely proven that being fearless can get you far!
4. Dylan Alcott
Image: Paralympics Australia.
Professional athlete, motivational speaker, charity founder, radio DJ – what can’t Dylan Alcott do? He had a wildly successful career as a professional athlete that culminated in him securing the 2021 Golden Slam, a very rare achievement of winning every major Grand Slam title and an Olympic gold medal in the same year. He retired from sports in 2022, but not before achieving his lifelong goal of becoming a role model for young kids with disabilities – something that wasn’t available for him when he was growing up.
Living up to his reputation of one of the coolest guys in Australia, Dylan also hosts a radio show on Triple J, has won a Logie for hosting The Set, founded three organisations to support people with disabilities, and even hosted Playschool with fellow athlete-turned-media star Tony Armstrong.
5. Arisa Trew
Image: Kenichiro Ogane/AFLO/Shutterstock.
Arisa Trew is an icon in the making. The Gold Coast local made headlines worldwide when, at just 13, she became the first ever woman to land one of the rarest tricks in skateboarding during a competition. Arisa landed the 720 (which is two full mid-air rotations!) at an event hosted by skateboarding legend and inventor of the trick, Tony Hawk. As if it wasn’t cool enough to do it once, she pulled it off again in competition a few weeks later at X Games, where she took home two gold medals and became the first woman in X Games history to win double gold in park skateboarding.
Arisa’s record-breaking debut in the sport has her pegged as an Australian skateboarding prodigy, alongside the equally impressive Chloe Covell. There's no doubt that Arisa has a huge career ahead of her, but she’s already proving that you’re never too young to start chasing your dreams!
6. Patty Mills
Image: Adam Head
There is so much to admire about basketballer Patty Mills. The NBA star isn’t only an ultra-impressive athlete, he’s also a vocal advocate for social justice and environmental issues. A proud Kokatha, Naghiralgal, Duaureb–Meriam man, Patty is passionate about giving back to his communities and advocating for First Nations peoples across the world.
In addition to his long and impressive career in the NBA, Patty has found success as the captain of the Aussie national team, the Boomers. He led the team to their first ever Olympic medal, at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. He also made history at the Games as the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander athlete to walk as a flag bearer for Australia in the opening ceremony.
In 2022, Patty was named the ACT Australian of the Year for his contributions to basketball and his advocacy efforts off the court.
7. Ariarne Titmus
Nothing gets the heart racing faster than watching the replay of Ariarne Titmus’s incredible 400m freestyle race at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, where she beat US swimming icon and five-time world champion Katie Ledecky to win the gold. She also took home another gold, a silver and two bronze medals at her first Olympic Games, cementing her place as a swimming champion.
Ariarne’s skill and talent is just one aspect of what makes her such an admirable athlete. She’s also a huge believer in the power of a positive mindset, and is vocal about the importance of practising self-care and prioritising your wellbeing. Cooking, relaxing with her dog and spending time with friends are all ways that she gets her head out of the pool and calms down her mind and body after a long day. In the lead-up to races, she hypes herself up by using positive self-talk and headbanging along to her heavy rock playlist.