Since the modern Olympic Games begin in Greece in 1896, a significant number of Olympians have come from the St George area, participating in a variety of sports.
In the lead up to the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, a new exhibition at Hurstville Museum & Gallery will celebrate these national and local icons, to reflect on social and sporting history from the early 1900s to present day.
Striving for Gold: Olympians of St George will showcase Olympic memorabilia as well as stories from the St George area’s former Olympians, which provide a personal insight into the world’s biggest sports competition.
Athletes from the St George area trained hard to participate in the Olympics. Council facilities, such as Hurstville Oval, provided important training grounds for successful local Olympians, who joined local clubs such as St George Women’s Amateur Athletics Club, St George Hockey Club and St George Cycling Club.
Featured in the exhibition will be the Olympic Torch carried in the 2000 Olympics torch relay by Hurstville local, Pauline Jean English OAM; a Paralympics swimming champion in the 1970s, winning Gold in the Women’s 25m Butterfly 4 event.
English recalled that she “was very lucky with the people of the St George area”. In order to compete in the 1976 Toronto Paralympics, Australian athletes needed to raise money for uniforms, airfares and accommodation, and the St George community rallied around English to help raise the $2,500 required.
Striving for Gold will also showcase stories of local gymnasts Ellen Maher and Bruce Sharp. Competing in the 2019 Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi, Maher recalled “I felt happy, proud to be representing Australia, excited and strong.”
Meanwhile, Sharp’s story highlights the development of technology and equipment in the sports, as he remembered training for the 1956 Olympics in his family’s backyard with homemade equipment.
An Olympian is an Olympian forever. Ron Riley, a local hockey player who competed in three Olympic Games described it as, “a real privilege and something that you’ll take to your grave. You’ll always be an Olympian…to always say that you’re an Olympian is just something really special.”
Striving for Gold will bring together diverse topics associated with the Olympic Games through a mix of stories, objects, memorabilia, photographs and personal recollections drawn from Hurstville Museum & Gallery, along with loans from public and private collections.
Georges River Council Mayor Kevin Greene says, “As we get closer to the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, it is important for us to look back at our history to celebrate our very own Olympians of the St George area, as well as cheer on our 2021 Australian team.”
Striving for Gold: Olympians of St George will be on display at Hurstville Museum & Gallery from 8 May 2021 until 18 July 2021. An event to mark the opening of the exhibition will take place on Friday 7 May 2021, 6.00pm.