Jemima Montag has etched her name into Victorian Institute of Sport history, becoming the first race walker to win the prestigious Award of Excellence.
Montag capped off an impressive year on the track in 2022 by taking out two awards at the VIS’ Award of Excellence event held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday night.
"The Victorian Institute of Sport family is so special to be a part of," Montag said when she accepted her award.
"Thank you for celebrating my year with these awards tonight, I'm overflowing with gratitude."
Montag is an incredibly strong community spirit and uses her profile as an elite athlete to create positive message with the community.
In 2022, she broke a long standing 18-year 20km Australian and Oceania record by 13 seconds, a second consecutive Commonwealth Games gold medal and a top 4 performance at the World Athlete Championships.
Off the track, Montag is equally as impressive, which was highlighted when she was also awarded the Open Universities Australia Performance Lifestyle Award on the night. An award presented to the athlete who has achieved personal excellence in their studies, career ambitions, and/or work setting whilst pursuing their dual sporting career.
Montag is passionate about encouraging people to move, eat well and connect through her role as an IOC Young Leader, selected among a group of 25 athletes around the world. She identified a decline in participation of young girls in sport and physical activity, which drove her to develop a program ‘Play On’ – focusing on how females can overcome their unique barrier to playing sport.
Finally, Montag has completed a Bachelor of Science degree and is currently studying medicine at the University of Melbourne.
The function was attended by over 300 VIS athletes, staff, partners, and stakeholders. It recognised and celebrated the outstanding achievements of VIS athletes from a year which brought us the Beijing Winter Olympic & Paralympic Games and the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
Six main awards were presented including the coveted Award of Excellence, the Para Athlete Award, 2XU Rising Star Award, the Sarah Tait Spirit Award and the Open Universities Australia Performance Lifestyle Award and the Frank Pyke Achievement Award.
The 2XU Rising Star Award, which recognises the young athlete who has achieved outstanding sporting results during the year, complemented by success in other areas of their life, was awarded to 14-year-old diver Charli Petrov.
Not only did Petrov make her Commonwealth Games debut for Australia as the youngest member of the team, she also collected a gold medal, paired up with one of Australia’s most decorated divers, Melissa Wu.
“I'm so honored and grateful to everyone who has helped me win this 2XU Rising Star Award," Petrov said.
"It's definitely not been a solo success this year and I want to thank everyone here."
The incredibly special Sarah Tait Spirit Award recognises the athlete who most encompasses the spirit of the VIS.
This athlete has demonstrated courage, commitment, and persistence to achieve their sporting goals, whilst showing the ability to inspire and bring out the best in others, engage with and bring pride to their community and in 2022 it was awarded to Liz Watson.
Like the Award’s namesake, Watson has shown her spirit on and off the netball court. Faced with a season-ending injury in 2021, the Vixen Co-Captain turned her focus to mentoring the younger players in her team. When she returned to the court in 2022 it looked like she never missed a beat, and she was deservingly named the 25th captain of the Australian Diamonds.
She led the Diamonds to be crowned the 2022 Commonwealth Games Champions in Birmingham.
"It's very special to win this award," Watson said.
"Sarah was such an amazing part of the VIS family and just to be recognised for my work this year, it does mean a lot and I feel really honored."
Image: The 2022 award winners: Para Athlete Award Winner, Col Pearse (left), Award of Excellence & Open Universities Australia Performance Lifestyle Award Winner, Jemima Montag (middle), Sarah Tait Spirit Award Winner, Liz Watson (right). Absent: 2XU Rising Star Award Winner, Charli Petrov and Frank Pyke Achievement Award Winner, James Tomkins.
Nominated as a finalist for three separate awards on the night, including the Award of Excellence, Col Pearse was the deserving winner of the Para Athlete Award, presented to the para athlete who has had the best results within the calendar year.
Pearse had a year to remember in 2022, he achieved gold at the Commonwealth Games and won two silver medals at the 2022 Para World Championships, which included an Oceania record.
“It's great to be recognised for my achievements this year," Pearse said.
"But, it was even greater and more rewarding to be named a finalist alongside some other incredible athletes."
Australian rowing legend James Tomkins was named the Frank Pyke Achievement Award winner.
The award is named in honour of the inaugural Executive Director of the VIS and was awarded to Tomkins for his long and successful sporting career as well for his significant contributions to the VIS and his sport.
Most importantly Tomkins has proved very successful in his life after sport and epitomises the VIS motto, 'Success in Sport and Life'.
"I'm very pleased, and have fond memories of Frank and what he did to set up the VIS and the incredible legacy that he has left," Tomkins said.
"so thank you for this award."
16 athletes were also named winners of the 2022 Coach Awards, which are presented to an athlete in each VIS sport program who is the most deserving within this calendar year.
The 2022 Coach Awards winners:
- Laura Peel (Aerial Skiing)
- Jai Crawley (Archery)
- Elyssia Kenshole (Athletics)
- Katharina Haecker (Combat)
- Emily Petricola (Cycling)
- Charli Petrov (Diving)
- Cooper Burns (Men’s Hockey)
- Olivia Downes (Women’s Hockey)
- Sussu Liai (Netball)
- Anna Cripsey (Sailing)
- Catherine Skinner (Shooting)
- Sam Williamson (Swimming)
- Tyson Bull (Individua Scholarship Program – Gymnastics)
- Nicholas Lum (Future Talent Program – Table Tennis)
- Isabel Martin (Wheelchair Basketball)
- Sophie Linn (Triathlon)