Each month we speak to Olympian, gold medallist, and former Senator Nova Peris about topics important to her and important to mob.

Nova Peris sat down with NIT to talk about the Tokyo Olympics, our 16 Indigenous athletes heading over and her thoughts on the COVID-19 situation. 

 

This year we have the most Indigenous athletes ever selected for the Olympics, what are your thoughts on this compared to your time at the Olympics?

It really is absolutely brilliant. We’ve got 16 Aboriginal athletes across 11 different sports, which is just phenomenal. My younger cousin Brooke Peris has been selected for her second Olympics and she’s with another fellow Hockeyroo, Mariah Williams. 

It’s not a rarity anymore, you know that saying I keep on saying over and over again: “You can’t be what you can’t see.” And the fact that we’ve got 16 Aboriginal athletes that are going to be represented in Tokyo is just magnificent.

There were only four or five of us [Indigenous athletes] at the Atlanta Olympics some 21 years ago, and now we’ve quadrupled that so it’s just brilliant.

 

Ten of the 16 athletes are female, what are your thoughts on the increased representation of Blak women? 

I’m surprised but not surprised, I think because a lot of Aboriginal young men are almost lured into rugby league or AFL.

For example, my son Jack Peris who’s won seven national titles in athletics missed out on going to the World Juniors last year because of COVID, and this year he’s hasn’t even blinked an eyelid at running, he’s just gone full-throttle AFL.

It’s absolutely bloody hard to represent your country in any sport let alone to become an Olympian, there’s a saying: “There’s no such thing as a former Olympian or an ex-Olympian, it’s once an Olympian, always an Olympian.”

Even for Ash Barty, she’s number one in the world in her sport but now she’s going to become an Olympian and that’s an amazing achievement. 

I’m just absolutely thrilled that we’re going to have hundreds if not thousands of young Aboriginal kids glued to the Olympics and keeping track of our amazing athletes that are going to be representing us.

 

How do you feel watching family of yours compete in the Olympics, with Brooke Peris playing at this level for a second time?

When I came home from the ’96 Olympics, I think Brookie was about four-years-old and I’ve got her on my hip and she’s kissing my medal and holding it … what goes through the mind of a little four-year-old thinking, ‘Oh, Aunty’s got this big chunk of gold around her neck.’?

She’s played over 180 games for Australia now, she’s been around for a long time. I think this is her eighth year or seventh year playing for the Hockeyroos and that’s a phenomenal effort.

For me, watching the Olympics as a young kid I was the one when I was nine-years-old and saying to my mum, ‘I want to go to the Olympics one day,’ and my dream came true, it became a reality, and these 16 Aboriginal athletes across 11 sports are going to give hope and aspiration to our next generation.

Nova Peris with her gold medal. Photo supplied.

 

What do you think about the COVID-19 situation in Tokyo with people saying the Olympics shouldn’t go ahead?

At the end of the day, I think there are enough people in the sports to make that decision about if it’s safe to do so. I know all of our Olympians have been vaccinated so they are prepared and they’re training and they’ve been mentally prepared for this for a number of years now.

For it to have been interrupted because of COVID last year, there’d be nothing worse than for it to be interrupted again because of it. 

 

What are you looking forward to the most with this Olympics coming up?

It’s funny because it’s almost like the whole world stops for two weeks and everyone’s just glued to the TV. It’s going to be bizarre not seeing the hundreds of thousands of spectators that travel to watch their favourite sports.

You’ve got track and field with [Angie] Blackburn in the 4×400 team and I’ve known Angie for a long, long time and it’s fantastic that her dream has come to fruition, she gets to wear the green and gold at the Olympics!

Of course, the hockey I’m going to be glued to that watching Brooke and Mariah [Williams], and watching the Socceroos and the boxing. 

And Patty Mills, you know, he’s our first Indigenous flag bearer, he’s in outstanding form at the moment.

I’m just looking forward to watching the Olympics in its entirety but, I’ve already sort of called out obviously the hockey and Patty Mills and Ash Barty, wouldn’t that be magnificent if one of those could come home with an Olympic gold medal to match mine and Cathy Freeman’s!