Ash Barty honoured with The Don Award

Justin Chadwick |

Ash Barty has been given The Don Award for the second time as Australia’s sporting inspiration.
Ash Barty has been given The Don Award for the second time as Australia’s sporting inspiration.

Ash Barty’s on-court heroics and off-court humility have been recognised again after she became just the third athlete to win the coveted The Don Award for a second time.

Barty shocked the tennis world in March when she announced her retirement at the age of 25 – less than two months after winning the Australian Open.

The three-time major winner was the No.1 ranked female player at the time of her shock exit from the sport.

Despite no longer competing, Barty remains one of Australia’s favourite personalities.

She was the most googled Australian figure in 2022, even edging out Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The Don Award, named in recognition of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s inaugural Inductee Sir Donald Bradman, is considered the highest honour in Australian sport.

It’s awarded to an athlete or a team which has provided the most inspiration to the nation through performance and example in the past year.

Barty (2019, 2022) joins Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sally Pearson (2012 and 2014) and Olympic champion pole vaulter Steve Hooker (2008 and 2009) as a multiple winner of the award.

“This year was certainly my most enjoyable Australian Open … because it felt free,” Barty said on the Seven Network’s special ‘Sport Australia Hall of Fame: Heroes and Legends’.

“I played without consequence, I played like a little kid.

“In my eyes, there was no pressure. It was just about me trying to redeem myself, in a way, and playing how I’d always wanted to play – go out there and play like the kid that fell in love with sport.”

For fans wondering if Barty has been getting itchy feet in retirement – don’t hold your breath.

“In my mind there was never going to be a perfect ending, but it was my perfect ending,” Barty said of her retirement.

“It was never about finishing on a win or on a really high emotional feeling. It was just about collectively, I felt it was right.

“Now (that decision) has led to nine months of just an incredible life off the court. It’s been amazing.”

The late Peter Norman was honoured with The Dawn Award on Thursday night.

Named after swimming great Dawn Fraser, the award recognises a courageous ground-breaker who has demonstrated achievement against the odds and challenged the status quo.

Norman is best remembered for the role he played at the medal ceremony after the men’s 200m final in the 1968 Mexico Olympics when he supported fellow athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos.

Smith and Carlos raised their gloved fists in protest at the treatment of African-Americans in the United States, a stance widely known as the Black Power Salute.

Wearing the Olympic Project for Human Rights badge, Norman stood in solidarity with the American pair – a move that he was criticised for when he returned home.

“Tommie and John were discussing about the gloves, and then it was found that John had left his gloves behind. So they then decided to wear a glove each,” Norman’s wife Jan said about the famous moment.

“Peter was keen to support them somehow. As they were heading out to the ceremony, there was an American rower, and he had his badge on – the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

“Peter acquired the badge and very proudly wore that badge on the dais. There were some boos and jeers. That’s when Peter knew what’s all happening.”

Smith and Carlos demonstrated their respect and admiration for Norman when they came to Australia to deliver eulogies and be pallbearers at his funeral in 2006.

Norman’s time of 20.06 seconds in that 1968 Olympic final is still an Australian record and was enough to net him the silver medal.