Doing Us Proud
Moreton Bay was well represented at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games recently, with four local athletes among the group to do the region proud.
Charisma Amoe-Tarrant claimed silver in the weightlifting competing for Nauru, Kiah Melverton completed an all-Aussie podium in the 800m freestyle, Jodie Kenny finished as the Hockeyroos’ leading goal-scorer, and Mitch Cooper threw a season’s best in the discus.
A proud Narangba local, Amoe-Tarrant was one of 16 athletes to represent her home country of Nauru, winning their only medal of the Games with silver in the +90kg weightlifting.
Born in the island nation in 1999, she spent her youth moving back and forth from Australia, where she and her younger siblings were raised by her grandparents after her mother passed away.
“If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have gone to a good school, but can now call myself a former student of Narangba Valley State High,” she said. “I may be lifting for another country, but am proud to say that I live in Moreton Bay and am also representing the region.
“The Commonwealth Games had been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember, and I had to sacrifice a lot to get there. My family has gone through a lot, but seeing them there and being able to make them smile made it all worth it, and eased away all the worries I’d had being away from them.”
Amoe-Tarrant said she didn’t believe her coach Paul Coffa, who said she was in line for a medal, as her previous best of 90kg snatch and 125kg clean and jerk was well off the mark, but she dug deep and managed a 101kg snatch and 142kg clean and jerk to finish in second place.
“The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is my next goal,” she said. “It won’t be easy, but with the support of my family and training colleagues everything is okay!”
For Cooper, the road to the elite level of discus started at his school athletics day in year five.
“I won that day, mostly because I was the biggest kid, and advanced to districts,” he said. “Dad started to coach me, and eventually I progressed from districts up to nationals where I threw a national record for the 10 year old age group, and then later to the Youth Commonwealth Games and Junior World Championships.”
After returning to Australia last year from a four-year athletics scholarship with Kansas University, Cooper trained six days a week in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games – still coached by his father, Garth.
“When the Gold Coast won the bid for the Games I knew I wanted to be there,” the Burpengary local said. “It was a busy year graduating college and moving back from the States, but with the support of my family and coaching group I was able to compete well and throw decently.”
Describing his first throw in qualifying as the most nervous he’s ever been during competition, he managed a season-best distance in the final of 60.4 metres to finish in fifth place overall, with fellow Aussies Matthew Denny in fourth and Benn Harradine in sixth.
“While I was three metres off my PB, I had an awesome time throwing in front of a home crowd and sharing the experience with my loved ones,” Cooper said. “It was definitely a new feeling hearing the crowd roar when my name was announced.”
Photo by Hockey Australia/Daniel Carson
Less than a year after giving birth, 30-year-old Kenny played a major role in the Hockeyroos’ silver medal campaign, finishing as the team’s leading goal-scorer with five in six matches.
The Burpengary local, who attended Wamuran State School, has played nearly 200 games for the national side, but it took plenty of hard work and determination to earn selection for the Games.
Giving birth to her son Harrison in June 2017, she returned after a long hiatus from hockey to train at the Queensland Academy of Sport as part of the National Development Squad.
She then made what coach Paul Guadion described as an ‘amazing’ return into the team, before repaying selectors by scoring Australia’s only goal in their win over Canada in the opening pool game, backing it up with a double against Ghana in the next match and scoring again against Scotland.
While losing to New Zealand in the gold medal match, Kenny found the back of the net once again to complete an impressive tournament.
Photo by Swimming Australia/Delly Carr
There’s no better occasion to swim a personal best time than in the final of a major competition, which is exactly what Melverton did to take out bronze in the 800m freestyle.
Finishing behind fellow Australians Ariarne Titmus and Jess Ashwood with a time of 8:28:59 (a PB of 2.5 seconds), the 21-year-old said she had struggled physically and mentally in the lead-up to team trials.
“To me, the process of making a team has always been more difficult than having to perform once selected, but once I qualified it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I was incredibly excited to race.
“These games had been a goal of mine for the past two years, and ever since the idea of swimming in front of a home crowd was in my head I knew it was something that I really wanted to do.”