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19 Inspirational Locals To Cheer For In The Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games

The Paris Olympic Games begin on Friday July 26, 2024! We can’t wait to watch our Aussie athletes participate to the best of their ability on the world stage. We’ve done a round up of North Shore and Northern Beaches locals who have been selected for our Olympic and Paralympic teams – and there are plenty of them! Congratulations to all and we wish you the very best of luck.

Rowena Meredith, Rowing

Rowena Meredith (second from left). Image: Olympics.com.au

Age: 29

Events: Rowing Women’s Quadruple Sculls

Junior Club: Mosman Rowing Club

School: Stella Maris College, Manly 

Olympics history: Tokyo 2020 

Rowena Meredith embarked on her international rowing journey at the 2015 U23 World Championships, clinching a silver medal alongside Georgie Gotch, Leah Saunders, and Tessa Carty.

Transitioning to Rowing Australia’s National Training Centre in the subsequent year, Rowena, under the guidance of John Keogh, Tom Westgarth, and Ellen Randell, cemented her presence in Australia’s senior quad sculls team. Notably, she secured a second-place finish in the 2017 World Cup Rowing II.

Her Olympic debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games marked a significant milestone, where she contributed to the women’s quadruple sculls bronze medal. Despite facing formidable competition and securing their spot in the final through the repechage, Meredith and her crew showcased remarkable resilience, clinching the bronze medal.

The achievement coincided with a golden moment for Australian rowing, as the nation’s men’s and women’s fours claimed gold, and the men’s and women’s quadruple sculls secured bronze. This collective success, alongside swimmer Ariarne Titmus’ gold medal in the 200m freestyle, marked a historic high for the Australian Olympic Team.

Marina Carrier, Modern Pentathlon

Image: Olympics.com.au

Age: 27
Events: Modern pentathlon
From: Wahroonga 

Olympics history: Tokyo 2020

Northbridge’s Marina Carrier was introduced to Modern Pentathlon as a 13-year-old by her teacher, and it sparked an interest that took her to the Tokyo Olympic Games and now, Paris.

Growing up playing soccer, tennis, sailing and skiing it came as no surprise that when Modern Pentathlon, which comprises the five disciplines of fencing, swimming, show jumping, shooting and running. appeared on Carrier’s radar, she thought it sounded “so cool.”

The youngster was determined to give it a go, picking up the five disciplines that she had never competed in and “absolutely loved it,” but it wasn’t until some encouragement from London 2012 Olympian Edward Fernon that Carrier decided to pursue the sport to an Olympic level.

With less than one year of elite competition under her belt, Carrier qualified for the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) when she was 17, as Australia’s first-ever female (YOG) modern pentathlete.

Although Carrier missed out on Rio 2016 Olympic qualification, the then 19-year-old was making waves, becoming the seventh-ranked junior in the world and Australian Champion by 2017, her first international season.

Carrier was named Australian Champion again in 2018 and as she started contesting senior events, began to feature on the podium.

While continuing her Bachelor of Medical Science at Sydney University, she made two senior World Cup finals and won bronze at the Polish Open in 2018 and 2019, beating World No.2.

Carrier then went on to finish second at the 2020 Oceania Championships and was selected to compete at her first Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Source: https://www.olympics.com.au/olympians/marina-carrier/

Tilly Kearns, Water Polo

Age: 23
Born: Crows Nest
School: Queenwood School for Girls 
Water Polo Club: Sydney Northern Beaches Breakers
Events: Women’s Water Polo
Olympics history: Tokyo 2020

Unlike many of her fellow players, it was not love at first sight – or touch – for Queenwood alumni Matilda ‘Tilly’ Kearns, when as a 13-year-old she jumped into the deep end of the Water Polo pool.

“At first I didn’t really like it because I didn’t really get it. I did it for four weeks and it was barely Water Polo, it was like bull-rush with a ball,” she said of her first foray in the sport.

“I stopped playing it but then came back the next season, and because I was bigger than everyone I was better at it and started to like it from there,” said Tilly, of her 176cm frame.

Tilly joined the Sydney Northern Beaches Breakers (SNBB) club and came through the age groups and as soon as she made her first NSW state team, she was determined for Olympic glory.

A ‘Water Polo high-performance camp in July 2018 fuelled that fire a little more. “I loved the camp, it just sparked my love for the sport again. It was really tactical, it was about learning the plays and combinations,” Tilly said.

Now with the Sydney University Lions, with several Stingers as teammates, Tilly is about to realise her Olympic dream after competing at the 2016, 2017 and 2018 FINA World Junior Championships.

She scored 29 goals in her freshman year in 2019 with the University of Southern California (USC) Trojans but didn’t return for the 2020 season (COVID-19) or 2021 to concentrate on Tokyo preparations. She hopes to complete her USC studies in due course.

Tilly is one of four children to mum Julie and Wallabies legend Phil Kearns, who won two World Cups for Australia in rugby union (1991, 1999), and actually played some Water Polo in his youth.

Source: https://www.olympics.com.au/olympians/matilda-kearns/

Edwina Tops-Alexander, Equestrian

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images via Olympics.com.au

Age: 50
School: Pymble Ladies College
Club: Avondale Pony Club
Events: Equestrian – Jumping Individual & Jumping Team
Olympics History: Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016, Tokyo 2020

Edwina Tops-Alexander is known as one of Australia’s leading showjumpers and one of the highest ranked female riders in the world. Her journey into the equestrian world was sparked by her neighbours, they owned a barn and would ride their horses on the weekend. As a result this caught Edwina’s interest and by eight-years-old she was riding in her local Pony Club.

Growing up in the North Shore in Sydney, Edwina attended Pymble Ladies College which instilled a solid education. Her family always supported and believed in her riding and gave her every opportunity to further her career.

Once her competition career had started, it was clear that Edwina was destined for great things from her first forays in the sport. Her young career saw her win the coveted Australian Young Rider Championship in 1995.

In 1998, only three years after winning the highest honours available to a young Australian rider, Edwina decided to move halfway around the world to Europe. She began working and competing for the Belgian rider Ludo Phillippaerts. After several years of working with Ludo Phillippaerts, and competing against world-class riders, she decided to branch out and work on her own.

In 2006, Tops-Alexander was the first Australian to qualify for the final of the World Equestrian Games. She came 4th overall, and along the way won the semifinal – which was impressive enough in itself. Tops-Alexander also won the overall ranking at both the 2011 and 2012 Global Champions Tour (LGCT).

Tops-Alexander has represented Australia in the Olympics on four occasions, in Beijing in 2008, London in 2012, Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and Tokyo in 2020. She is the first rider to win over €1 million in prize money on the LGCT circuit, and in 2018 she won the first-ever Super Grand Prix worth over €2 million in prize money.

Source: https://www.olympics.com.au/olympians/edwina-tops-alexander/

Sienna Green

Age: 19

Born: North Sydney

Event: Water Polo

Lives: Mosman 

High school: SCEGGS Darlinghurst 

When Sienna Green realised as a nine-year-old that water polo combined the two sports she loved, she was hooked.

“I started playing when I was nine because my parents and older brother played water polo,” she said. “It combined the other sports I played at the time of swimming and basketball and I instantly fell in love.

“I really enjoyed the physicality and strategy of the game and I just loved playing.”

After winning an Australian Water Polo League title with the University of Sydney Lions in 2021, Sienna captained the national under-18 team, before earning her first cap for the Australian women’s team, the Stingers, in 2022.

She made her debut with the Stingers against Canada in March of 2022. Sienna served as captain and was the highest goal-scorer of the Australian team at the 2022 FINA World Women’s Youth Water Polo Championships in Belgrade, Serbia.

Following a successful US college season for UCLA in 2023, in which she shone not only as a central defender but also as an increasingly effective presence in attack – scoring 39 goals in 29 games – Sienna was selected in the Stingers’ 2024 world championships squad.

NSW Institute of Sport water polo program head coach Jacki Northam has described Sienna as “a player to watch … ready to unleash on the world”.

Source: https://www.olympics.com.au/olympians/sienna-green/

Mali Lovell, Athletics

Age: 19

Events: Women’s T36 100m, 200m  

Lives: Allambie Heights 

Club: UTS Norths 

Events: T36 100m and 200m

Coaches: Katie Edwards & Melinda Gainsford-Taylor

Debut: 2023 World Para Athletics Championships

Mali Lovell joined Katie Edwards and Melinda Gainsford-Taylor’s squad six years ago and started her serious journey in athletics. Mali recalled:

“I started athletics at the age of 12 (in Year 6) with the encouragement of my friend Olivia Inkster and her family – they had seen para-athletes at athletics meets and encouraged me to have a go. We also played in a soccer team together with Gabi Taylor and from there I met her mum Mel Gainsford-Taylor and Katie Edwards and their awesome squad.”

At 17, she was close to qualifying for the Tokyo Paralympics held in 2021, and has over the last two years made significant progress under coaches Katie Edwards and Melinda Gainsford-Taylor, however, she didn’t want to get ahead of herself.

“I only dared to think about the world championships once I had my first A qualifier at the ACT Champs in January 2023 and then followed with another at the NSW Championships.”

In addition to her training with coaches Katie and Mel, Mali regards her strength and conditioning program with Billy Macklin at NSWIS as key to her progress in the last year or so.

Now aged 19, she was in June 2023 named to make her Australian team debut for the Paris World Para Athletics Championships, where she will compete in the T36 100m and 200m.

Source: Athletics Australia

Alexander Purnell, Rowing

Alexander Purnell (far left) with his brother and parents Rod and Bronwyn. Image: Rowing Australia

Alexander Purnell
Age: 29
School: Sydney Church of England Grammar School (North Shore)
Events: Men’s Rowing Four (4-)
Junior Club: Shore 
Olympics history: Tokyo 2020

Alexander Purnell has had a long and decorated rowing career for Australia. The Brisbane-born athlete first took up the sport at the Shore School in Sydney. From 2013, he competed for Australia across various youth competition including the Junior World Rowing Championships as well as World Rowing U23 Championship where he claimed a bronze medal.

After completing his secondary education Alex joined Sydney University Boat Club for his senior rowing. He won three titles across the 2014 and 2015 Intervarsity titles with his performances catching the attention of New South Wales rowing selectors.

The Olympics were extra special for the Purnell family, with Alex there alongside his dual-Olympian older brother Nick, becoming the first brothers on the Australian Olympic rowing team since 2004.

Alex and the men’s four’s success did not wane following the Games. They took gold at the World Rowing Cup II and at the Stewards Challenge Cup in 2022.

At the 2023 Rowing World Championships, Alex and the men’s four raced to qualify for the Paris Olympics. A 2nd place finish in their heat, followed by a third place run in the semi-finals was enough for the Australian men’s four to qualify for the Paris Games.

At the 2024 World Rowing Cup II, Alex competed in the men’s eight, which finished in fourth position.

The 26-year-old first earned selection in the Australian youth ranks in 2013, with strong performances earning Purnell subsequent appearances in 2014 and in the U23 World Championships, where he earned bronze in the latter Quadruple Sculls event.

Source: https://www.olympics.com.au/olympians/alexander-purnell/

Liz Clay, 100m Hurdles

Image: Liz Clay Facebook page

Age: 29
Born: Wahroonga 
Events: Athletics – 100m hurdles
Junior club: Hornsby Little Athletics
Olympics history: Tokyo 2020 

A keen dancer when she was very young, Loreto Normanhurst alumni Liz Clay would go to athletics to watch her younger brother Harry compete. She got bored just watching him from the stands and decided to jump the fence and start her sporting journey at Hornsby Little Athletics in the under-10s. Over the next decade, her career evolved primarily as a hurdler, but constant injuries hampered her career.

Clay was selected for her junior international debut at the 2014 World Juniors in the 100m hurdles, but had to withdraw from the team when she broke her navicular bone weeks before the team departed.

After completing an exercise and sports science degree in Sydney, she relocated to the Gold Coast for coaching.

Clay had been making modest improvements in her hurdle times but was still plagued by injuries every year. It was a tough time for Clay, she felt all her competitors and teammates were progressing and achieving the things she wanted to and knew she could achieve.

During these years she found the mental side of competing very difficult as she never knew what the outcome was going to be or if her injuries would flare up which caused her a lot of stress.

Clay recalled competing during her first season without injury. She said it felt like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders.

Supporting her on her journey since arriving on the Gold Coast was leading Australian hurdles coach, Sharon Hannan, who had guided Sally Pearson to Olympic gold in 2012. Another influence was a boss of Clay’s, named Dimitri, a former professional tennis player.

He provided much-needed counsel. Clay described him as someone who gave her, ‘hard to swallow advice’, that she didn’t want to hear, but needed to. She says she is very grateful to him now.

Her start to the 2018/19 summer was promising, running a 100m personal best and two good hurdle times of 13.39 wind-assisted and 13.43 into a strong 1.9m/s wind, but days before the national championships she fractured her fibula in training.

So determined, she was not deterred, and embarked on a massive winter of training. Finally, in the 2019/20 summer the breakthrough happened. She ran a substantial 100m personal best, then in her pet event, the 100m hurdles she broke her now three-year-old hurdles best running 13.26, but that was just a hint of what was to come.

Clay went on to run a stunning 12.94 in Melbourne, to become the fourth-fastest in Australian history.

She just continued that progression in the summer of 2020/21, setting two PB’s of 12.84, then 12.72, both Olympic qualifiers, as she became the second fastest in Australian history.

Source: https://www.olympics.com.au/olympians/liz-clay/

 

Marcus Berehulak, Water Polo

Age: 21 

Born: North Sydney 

Event: Water polo 

Junior club: Brisbane Barracudas 

Olympics debut

At 21 years old, Marcus Berehulak is one of the youngest Aussie Sharks heading into the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

With the Brisbane local’s dad playing socially while Marcus was growing up, it was no surprise that he got into the sport through his father’s training sessions at age 11.

It was known from the get go that he had talent and in 2018, aged 15, Marcus won senior sportsperson of the year at Indooroopilly State High School.

Most recently, Marcus represented Australia again in the 2024 World Championships in Doha, where they finished 11th.

The 201cm tall defender earned 21 caps for his nation before his 24th birthday and is one to watch for his Olympic debut at Paris 2024.

Source: https://www.olympics.com.au/olympians/marcus-berehulak/

Keesja Gofers, Water Polo

Age: 34
Born: St Leonards 
High school: MLC School
Olympics history: Rio 2016, Tokyo 2020

The same year Keesja Gofers claimed her maiden national water polo title, she competed at her first Olympics as a driver for the Australian women’s water polo team.

She secured her debut at Rio with a strong 2016 season, scoring three goals in the bronze medal match at the FINA World Super League Finals in China, helping Australia place third over the host nation. Keesja proved to be an integral part of the women’s side, scoring a total of five goals for the Australians.

Keesja took up Water Polo to copy her sisters when she was 13. She made her international debut in 2010 and helped Australia claim silver at the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona, Spain.

Athleticism runs in the Gofers family. Her sister, Taniele, competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics winning the water polo bronze medal and has represented Australia in European handball. Another of her sisters, Allira, plays European handball and beach handball for Australia.

Keesja graduated from Sydney University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Design in Architecture.

Source: https://www.olympics.com.au/olympians/keesja-gofers/

Shaun Connor, 49er 

Age: 26
Born: Crows Nest
Lives: Fairlight
Junior Club: Middle Harbour Skiff Club
High school: St Lukes Grammar
Olympic debut

Born into a sailing family on Sydney’s northern beaches, Shaun Connor was out on the water by the time he was four.

“I started sailing with my older brother in a Manly Junior at Middle Harbour Skiff Club, although I have always been out on the water since a newborn with my family,” Shaun said. “My mum and dad are both keen sailors and introduced me to it ever since I can remember.”

At the age of 14, Shaun teamed up with his mate Jim Colley, a fellow Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club sailor. Two years later the pair were off to the ISAF Youth World Championships in Portugal.

A win in the 49er class at the Sail Sydney regatta in December 2023 by Jim and Shaun ensured an Olympic quota for Australia.

The tricky waters off Marseille, where the Paris Olympics sailing regatta will take place, will be no mystery to Shaun and Jim. The pair took part in an Olympic test event there in July 2023, arriving in the southern French city in early June to get in some extra training time.

Source: https://www.olympics.com.au/olympians/shaun-connor/

Holly Lincoln-Smith, Water Polo

Age: 36 
Event: Water Polo 
From: Mona Vale 
High school: Mackellar Girls High and Queenwood 
Olympics history: London 2012, Rio 2016

2012 London bronze medallist Holly Lincoln-Smith made her second Olympic appearance at Rio 2016 as the centre forward on the Australian Women’s Water Polo Team.

Lincoln-Smith was inspired to try water polo at age 13 by her high school teacher – 2000 Olympic water polo gold medallist Debbie Watson. She competed in her first major senior international tournament at the 2009 World Championships in Rome, before having shoulder surgery later that year.

The Sydney-sider was back in the pool in 2010, helping Australia win gold at the FINA World Cup in Auckland, New Zealand before making her Olympic debut at the 2012 London games, winning bronze in a penalty shootout against Hungary.

In making the 2012 London team, Lincoln-Smith and her sister Emma became the first siblings to compete at a Summer and Winter Olympics for Australia. Emma competed in the skeleton at the 2012 Vancouver Winter Olympics where she placed 10th, the best ever result for an Australian.

Source: https://www.olympics.com.au/olympians/holly-lincoln-smith/

Four months before the start of the Paris Olympics, equestrian Shane Rose was lying in a hospital bed with 19 different bone fractures, his Games dream in tatters.

Just days before, Shane, a three-time Olympic medallist in eventing, had confirmed his qualification for Paris, but a horrific training accident meant his chances of competing were severely compromised.

Shane was schooling a young horse over some jumps at his property in Werombi, southwest of Sydney, when it clipped a hurdle. Shane hit the ground first and the 550kg horse fell on top of him.

He was rushed to hospital and, along with a severe concussion, doctors found 19 separate fractures, including three in his elbow, four in his pelvis, six broken ribs and four near his spine. He also had surgery to insert a rod into his femur.

In early June, 85 days after his accident, Shane returned to competition, taking part in dressage and showjumping at the Melbourne international three-day event in Werribee. And a month later he was named in the Australian team for Paris.

Source: https://www.olympics.com.au/olympians/shane-rose/

Ruby Trew, Skateboarding

Age: 15!
Events: Skateboarding Park
From: Manly 

School: Narrabeen Sports High School
Olympics debut 

When her dad plonked Ruby Trew on a surfboard at the age of six months and pushed her into her first wave, he probably had no idea what an amazing ride he was starting her on.

Ruby’s father Simon, who emigrated from Wales to Sydney’s northern beaches in 1999 in search of a better life and better waves, had ignited her passion for surfing.

A few years later he did the same thing with skateboarding. “I started skateboarding when I was five,” Ruby said. “My dad bought a skateboard and I said I wanted to have a go and so I tried it and I liked it.”

Unable to choose between the two sports, she stuck with them both. By the age of six, Ruby was entering grom contests for both surfing and skateboarding and the successes started rolling in.

At 10, she was traveling overseas to compete in top-tier skating events, claiming silver in the women’s vert contest at the World Championships in Barcelona in 2019.

In surfing, she became the 2019 NSW under-12 state champion and won the Oz Grom competition for under-12 girls at Lennox Head.

Ruby hopes to continue competing internationally in both her sports and after Paris she could switch her focus to the surf, aiming to win a place in the Australian team for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

Source: https://www.olympics.com.au

Holly Warn, Swimming

Age: 15

Event: Swimming, freestyle 

From: Manly, NSW

Olympics debut

A rising Paralympic swimming star, Holly Warn is the youngest Australian chosen to compete in the 2024 Summer Paralympics in Paris.

Born with cerebral palsy, Warn began swimming to build strength. Inspired by Maddison Elliott’s Paralympic gold in 2016, she excelled in national championships and joined the Para Flippers Development Squad in 2023.

Holly has sport in her veins. Her dad is John Warn, a Manly Warringah Waratah Life Member. A 13-season player at the Waratahs and board member, Warn scored 4,868 Premier Cricket Runs for Manly at an average of 26.17. He led 3rd Grade to a Premiership in 2004/05 and played a significant part in 3 Club Championships during his playing days.

For Holly, she secured a spot on the Australian team for the European Open Championships in Portugal this year. Specialising in freestyle races, Warn now trains under coach Alex Beaver.

Source: Swimming Australia

Sariah Paki, Rugby 7s

Age: 22
Lives: Manly 
School: Narrabeen Sports High 
Olympics history: Tokyo 2020

Sariah Paki created history in 2018, debuting for Australia at the Dubai Sevens at just 17 years of age. This meant the Manly product was the youngest person ever to play for Australia in the Sevens World Series.

Ironically Sariah, who has been nicknamed ‘Big Girl’ thanks to her physical and aggressive style of play, grew up playing touch football.

After encouragement from her father, she began playing rugby league. Playing as a front rower, Sariah featured in the Cronulla Sharks team that took out the Tarsha Gale Cup (NSW U19 Womens Premiership) in 2018. Little did she know she was also playing with a future Australian Rugby Sevens Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024 Olympic teammate in Faith Nathan.

Sariah made her Olympic debut in Australia’s group stage win against Japan. After progressing through the group stages, Australia was set to face Sevens juggernauts Fiji in the quarter-finals. In a tight affair Australia was defeated 14-12, denying them a chance at a medal in Tokyo.

Sariah scored her first Olympic try against ROC in the side’s 35-7 win. A win against the United States ultimately saw Australia claim fifth place in the competition.

The following year Sariah featured in the Australian team at the 2022 Brimingham Commonwealth Games. Her best performance of the tournament came in the match against Scotland in the group stage where she scored two tries.

Sienna Hearn, Water Polo

Age: 21
From: Manly
Lives: Northern Beaches 
School: Freshwater Senior Campus 
Junior Club: Sydney Northern Beaches Breakers 
Olympic debut

Good friendships are what drew Sienna Hearn to water polo and set her on the path to the Paris Olympics.

“My friends were what made me get started, then I stuck with it because of how much fun it is being part of a team,” Sienna said.

“I played a lot of sport growing up and I tried it with friends and stuck with it ever since.”

Growing up on Sydney’s northern beaches, Sienna started her water polo journey at the Sydney Northern Beaches Breakers Water Polo Club at the age of seven.

She excelled as a junior and 13 years later, at the 2022 FINA World League Intercontinental Cup in Peru Sienna made her senior national team debut for the Aussie Stingers.

After strong performances in the Australian Water Polo League with the UTS Balmain Tigers, she was in the Stingers squad for the 2024 World Championships in Doha. Australia finished sixth, beating Britain 20-8 in the round of 16 before going down by a point to the USA in the quarter-finals.

Away from the pool, Sienna is studying to become a school teacher.

Liv Lovelace, Skateboarding

Age: 20
Event: Skateboarding Street
School: Narrabeen Sports High 
Olympic debut

Liv Lovelace remembers being instantly hooked by the “borderlessness” of her sport when she had her first ride on a skateboard as an eight-year-old.

“Just the freedom,” she said. “Being able to be a little kid and kind of run away in my own little world and get lost, and I feel like it gave me an outlet to become the person that I am.”

Liv represented Australia at the skateboarding world championships in 2018 and 2019 and was on track for the Tokyo Olympics – where skateboarding made its debut – when injury intervened.

She broke her arm in two places while skating in Melbourne in the build-up to the Games. The injury required three operations and kept her off her board for seven months. Then there was a second fall that left her with ankle ligament damage and another three months out of action.

But she returned to take third place at the Oceania championships and fourth place at the national championships, before taking on the 2022 world championships, where she finished 10th.
Liv continued to perform on the world skateboarding tour through 2023, boosting her ranking to 18.

She ensured her place at the Paris Games by finishing with a ranking of 15 after the final event of the Olympic qualification series in Budapest.

 

 

DATES TO KNOW

Olympic Games: 26 July to 11 August, 2024
Paralympic Games: 28 August to 8 September, 2024

Time Difference – Paris v Australia

ACT, NSW, QLD, TAS, VIC: 8 hours ahead
NT, SA: 7.5 hours ahead
WA: 6 hours ahead

Do you know any other locals competing at Paris 2024? Drop us a line and we’ll add them to the list and give them a well-deserved shout out! Email info@thelivingcollective.com.au