Twenty-five years after setting the 110m Hurdles record in Australia, Kyle Vander-Kuyp is continuing to inspire aspiring athletes.
Worimi and Yuin man, Vander-Kuyp is a dual Olympian, three-time Commonwealth Games representative and 12-time Australian champion hurdler setting the 100m record at 13.29.
Travelling across Victoria, Vander-Kuyp is taking part in Coles Little Athletes Big Dreams program which aims to encourage youth to pursue healthy habits.
The program will see Vander-Kuyp speak to over 500 aspiring athletes at six Little Athletics centres in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs and across the Gippsland region.
The Olympian began his athletic journey at Ringwood Little Athletics centre in the 1980s and is humbled to return to where it all began.
“It was so much fun to head back to where it all started for me. Little Athletics will always hold a special place for me, because it is where a shy little kid like myself was able to find his passion in life,” he said.
“I tried everything from long jump, to the Fosbury flop, to race walking, and eventually discovered hurdles.
“To see so many kids down here having a great time with their friends, as well as their parents reminded me of how amazing our sport actually is.”
Vander-Kuyp not only finds fans in the little athletics, but in their families too.
“I just love these visits – it’s hard not to stay for hours and hours, signing autographs and meet everyone and showing that you’re just a normal person,” he said.
“I also get a lot of feedback from parents who watched me race, and they say I’ve inspired them. It’s nice to then meet their kids that they’re trying to have dreams for as well.”
In one of his visits, Vander-Kuyp met 11-year-old Aleeah Munnich and her sisters, 9-year-old Cora-Lyn and 5-year-old Malena. The girls are part of the Moe Little Athletics Centre and hail from the Bundjalung nation.
The trio were thrilled to meet the Olympian after watching him compete on YouTube said their mother, Anne-Marie Stever.
“It means so much to have an athletics legend like Kyle come out to a regional centre to spend time with our kids,” she said.
“My kids have all grown up watching Kyle, Cathy Freeman and Nova Peris race on YouTube but to meet Kyle in person is the icing on the cake.”
Coles is a major partner of Little Athletics Australia and a community partner of Athletics Australia.
Along with facilitating the Coles Little Athletes Big Dreams program, the supermarket chain has donated over $3million bananas and over $1.6million in sports grants for equipment to Little Athletics centres across the nation.
By Rachael Knowles