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Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Page: 11141


Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (12:22): Australians love sport and they love their sporting heroes. We have revealed through various golden eras, where our greatest have excelled, taken on the world and brought glory to each of us through association. Our greater sportsmen or women, however, attain our highest honour of legendary status not just through their triumphs on their field of their endeavour but through our ability to relate to them as fellow Australians, that allows our children to dream that if they were a famous sporting hero they would want to be just like them. The characteristics of our greatest are the characteristics that we as Australians hold uniquely above other standards. Jeff Harding epitomised the sheer guts in the face of adversity in the most brutal of sports, when battered and bruised he fought back from certain defeat to win the light heavyweight WBC title in his 15th professional fight against the great Dennis Andries. Was he our greatest boxer? Maybe, maybe not, but definitely a worthy candidate as our greatest fighter. On the aspect of his character alone, his place in Australian history is secure forever. Our Don is remembered as much for his final innings and the way he accepted his dismissal for a duck that left him short of achieving his goal of a test average of 100. We are as much enchanted by the talents beyond us mere mortals. We take great pleasure in marvelling at the way that Benny Elias could handle a wet football, at the sight of John Konrads gliding through the water and at the agility of Tim Watson—distinctly different from the enormity of Tony Lockett, yet their stature in the game was just the same. Evonne Goolagong's grace about the court belied her speed, which was the equal of Lionel Rose. Hubert Opperman won races in Paris and London and competed valiantly in the Tour de France with a team of just four against European teams of 10. Dawn Fraser's Aussie character of irreverence and final vindication was her mark as much as her gold medals at three Olympics. We marvel at the legion of tennis greats, from Ken Rosewall's science and artistry to the way that Pat Rafter accepted his loss at the Wimbledon final. Modest in victory and gracious in defeat, and yet all fighters every inch of the way.

Cadel Evans has all of these qualities in abundance. His chance so cruelly extinguished last year after wearing the yellow jersey with pride despite a fractured elbow. At 33 years of age, surely his chance for the greatest crown in cycling was gone. This was accepted with a smile on his face. His family and friends and those who participate in this sport were so aware of his extraordinary achievement in carrying injuries and fighting on—just like Jeff Harding years earlier. This year, burdened by 34 years, past his prime, but still a gallant competitor, he battled all the way. Back in the field during this race, the greatest test of endurance, surely the aged Australian must have had thoughts of the opportunities lost in the years prior haunting the road before him. There was no quit in him. Gracious in defeat last year, modest in victory to a fault this year. To Don, Ken, Evonne, Dawn and Oppy: you have a new and worthy peer, a champion in sport but, more significantly for we Australians and the standards by which we uniquely judge, a champion bloke.