History has been made with 16 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander athletes being selected to represent Australia at the Tokyo Olympics this month.

With the most First Nations athletes ever to be selected for an Australian Olympic team, the athletes will be competing across 11 sports.

 

Basketball – Patty Mills and Leilani Mitchell 

Patty Mills will compete in his fourth Olympic Games later this month after his success in Beijing in 2008, London in 2012, and Rio in 2016.

“The feelings are a bunch of emotions that are really hard to describe,” the 32-year-old said on Sunrise.

“I think I won’t really understand the magnitude and the impact that it will have on Australia for quite some time.”


The Muralag and Ynunga man has also made history by becoming the first Indigenous Australian flag bearer.

Torres Strait Islander woman Leilani Mitchell will compete in the women’s 5×5 for the second time after competing at Rio in 2016.

 

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Mitchell grew up in the United States but made her debut in Australia for the Opals in 2014 and is currently signed with the Southside Flyers (WNBL).

With 12 years of experience in the WNBA and more than half a dozen in the Australian national league, Mitchell looks to bring leadership to the Australian team.

 

Beach Volleyball – Taliqua Clancy

Wulli Wulli woman Taliqua Clancy will be returning to the Olympics, after placing fifth in beach volleyball at Rio in 2016.

 

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“There is no doubt in our minds that we have what we need, and we had really good preparation,” Clancy said.

“We can go out and get the gold medal.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunities the sport has given me, it’s taken me around the world and now it’s taken me to my second Olympics.”

The 29-year-old became the first Indigenous Australian to compete in Olympic Beach Volleyball during her Rio debut.

 

Boxing – Alex Winwood

Noongar man Alex Winwood will be making his Olympic debut competing in the flyweight event.

The 24-year-old patiently waited for his chance to represent his country after missing out on selection for Rio in 2016, not being eligible for the Commonwealth Games in 2018 and finally getting his chance this month at the Tokyo Games.

 

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Winwood is just one of the athletes who will represent both his country and heritage while wearing the Australian Olympic Team Delegation Uniform with Indigenous artwork by Paul Fleming.

“I absolutely love the fact that they’re bringing athletes together, especially Indigenous athletes, so we can spread our heritage and our stories through the Olympics, which is the biggest platform in the sporting world,” he said.

 

Hockey – Brooke Peris and Mariah Williams

Both Brooke Peris and Mariah Williams will be returning to Tokyo for a second time after they made their Olympic debuts in Rio in 2016.

 

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Peris is the cousin of former Olympic Hockeyroo gold medalist Nova Peris; she has been a big influence in Brooke’s sporting career.

Wiradjuri woman Mariah Willams started playing hockey from the age of four and has quickly climbed the ranks with her hard work and dedication.

Williams was also named an ambassador for the 2021 Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) Share a Yarn program.

 

 4x400m Relay – Angie Blackburn 

Monero Ngarigo and Yuin woman Angie Blackburn will also make her Olympic debut as a part of the 4x400m relay team.

 

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Blackburn has competed in athletics for over 15 years and at the age of 18 won a bronze medal in the 4x400m relay at the World Junior Athletics Championships in Poland.

 

Rugby – Maurice Longbottom and Dylan Pietsch

Dharawal man Maurice Longbottom and Wiradjuri man Dylan Pietsch will both debut at the Olympics as part of the Australian men’s rugby sevens squad.

Longbottom, who is also known as “The Magician”, was told he was too small to make rugby league but his massive talent earned him a ticket to Tokyo.

Maurice Longbottom. Photo via Twitter.

At just 23-years-old, Pietsch has risen through the rugby sevens ranks. He said it’s an honour to be able to represent his country.

Dylan Pietsch in action. Photo via Twitter.

“To have both myself and Moz [Maurice Longbottom] in the team coming from an Indigenous background makes the selection extra special and it’s a credit to the pathways in place with the Lloyd McDermott Foundation.”

The Lloyd McDermott Rugby Development Team aims to increase Indigenous participation in rugby and is named after the first Aboriginal player to represent his country in rugby union, Lloyd McDermott.

 

Football (Soccer) – Kyah Simon Lydia Williams

Anaiwan woman Kyah Simon and Noongar woman Lydia Williams have been selected once again for the women’s soccer squad.

Lydia Williams (L) and Kyah Simon (R) will represent in the Matildas.

Both Williams and Simon played with the Matildas in the 2016 Olympics in Rio and have the opportunity to shine again in Tokyo.

Now the longest-serving Matilda, Williams, 33, began her journey with the Matildas at just 17 and is four years away from claiming Australia’s longest-serving title.

 

Softball – Stacey Porter and Tarni Stepto

Kamilaroi women Stacey Porter and Tarni Stepto will join the Australian softball team, with Porter competing for the third time and Stepto making her debut in Tokyo.

Porter brought home a silver medal from Athens in 2004 and competed at Beijing in 2008 where her team finished third.

Stepto was just five-years-old when Porter made her Olympic debut at Athens in 2004, and 17 years later, the two are teammates.

“She’s a great athlete, but she’s also a great human. Being around her and seeing her work ethic, drives you to work harder,” Stepto said about her teammate.

“Also, the way she gives back to the community, she’s the true definition of an amazing athlete and person.”

 

Tennis – Ash Barty 

Ngarigo woman Ash Barty is adding another history-making moment to her legacy as she becomes the first Indigenous athlete to compete in tennis at an Olympic level.

The 25-year-old Wimbledon champion and world No.1 turns Olympics debutante later this month and is a strong contender for the gold.

Barty will be competing in both the women’s singles and doubles in Tokyo.

 

Trap Shooting – Thomas Grice

Thomas Grice will not only be making his debut at Tokyo but will be the first Indigenous Olympian who has competed in the shooting event.

Thomas Grice. Photo via Facebook.

Grice narrowly missed out on the 2016 Rio Olympic Games but went on to qualify for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

 

Weightlifting – Brandon Wakeling 

Wonnarua man Brandon Wakeling will be making his debut in the men’s 73kg event in Tokyo.

Wakeling will be the second First Nations weightlifter to compete in Olympics after Anthony Martin who competed at the 2000 Sydney Games.

The 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games are on from July 23 to August 8.

By Teisha Cloos