Inaugural Paddle Australia Hall of Fame inductees

Australian Sporting greats Phil Coles and Helen Brownlee, as well as five time Olympian and Olympic Champion Clint Robinson, are amongst the inaugural inductees, who were inducted into the Paddle Australia Hall of Fame over the weekend.

In its inaugural year, the Paddle Australia Hall of Fame (PAHOF) inducted twelve of Australia’s greatest canoeing contributors at the Australian Canoeing 2017 Annual Awards Dinner, which was held at the Gold Coast on Saturday night, 4 November 2017. Six of the twelve inductees were inducted posthumously. Membership of the Paddle Australia Hall of Fame represents the highest level of recognition of an individual’s contribution to the paddling community.

“We are thrilled to acknowledge the first inductees to the Paddle Australia Hall of Fame. The Paddle Australia Hall of Fame provides us with a wonderful opportunity to recognise the extraordinary achievements of these people who have contributed so much to our sport,” Andrea McQuitty, President of Australian Canoeing, said.

Phil Coles OAM, who has played an important role in Australia’s Olympic history, first as an athlete and later as an administrator, was one of the first inductees of the evening and was honoured for his contribution to the sport.

“It’s an honour to be inducted into the Paddle Australia Hall of Fame as this is the sport that got me to the Olympics. I was a member of the prestigious North Bondi Surf Club and had won five Australian Championships in the surfski before I started training in the kayak and first thought I wouldn’t last. I thought it was a bloody hard sport. But I’ve always been proud of Canoeing. It’s nice to have people rewarded and the Hall of Fame is a great initiative of Australian Canoeing,” Coles, who also is a Life Member of Australian Canoeing, said reminiscing about his time as an athlete.

The three-time Olympian competed in Canoe Sprint at the 1960 Rome, 1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. He was team captain at two Games and went on to become the canoe/kayak section manager at the 1972 Munich Olympics and Australian Team Chef de Mission at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Coles has been a member of the Executive Board of the Australian Olympic Committee since 1973, being Secretary General from 1985 to 1993 and then Director of International Relations from 1993 to 1999. He was a member of the Board of the Sydney Olympics 2000 Bid and was Vice President and Director of the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) from 1993 to 1999. Coles was also a member of the International Olympic Committee from 1982 to 2011 and became an honorary member from 2012.

Coles was joined by his Australian Canoeing and Australian Olympic Committee colleague Helen Brownlee OAM, who has been devoted to canoeing for more than 50 years as a competitor, judge and administrator.

“It’s a great honour to be recognised like this, because you don’t do it to be recognised. You do it because you love the sport,” Brownlee said.

Brownlee, who also accepted the posthumous induction of her father Os Brownlee, added: “I’m joining some real icons, including my dad, who got me into canoeing. And it was also my dad who showed me by example how I could give back to the sport by going into administration.”

The inaugural Paddle Australia Hall of Fame induction was part of the 2017 Annual Awards dinner, which was well received by all. “It really pleases me to see young people, who have finished their competitive career and are now moving into other areas where they can contribute, either in coaching or in administration or supporting what canoeing does in Australia so it is a great honour to be here,” Brownlee said.

Brownlee started in competitive canoeing as a teenager under the guidance of her father Os Brownlee, who was one of the founding members of Australian Canoeing. Her paddling took her from river touring to sprint competition and to slalom and wildwater disciplines. She won medals at state, national and international events, including Australia’s first international slalom medal.

Brownlee was a judge at the 1972 Munich and 1988 Seoul Olympic Games and a member of the competition jury at the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games. A groundbreaker for women in sports administration, she worked her way up to become President of the Australian Canoe Federation, a position she held for 14 years, and was given Life Membership. She is a Director of the International Canoe Federation, President of the Commonwealth Canoe Federation and the Oceania Canoe Federation, Chair of the Oceania National Olympic Committee’s Women and Sport Commission.

Brownlee is the first woman to be awarded Life Membership of the Australian Olympic Committee. She is also the first woman elected to the Australian Olympic Committee executive board and in 2013 became the Vice President.

Shortly before being inducted into The Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2015 Brownlee was awarded the Olympic Order for her significant contribution to world sport and her dedication to upholding the Olympic ideals. It was presented to her by the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, during the Oceania National Olympic Committee’s general assembly in Fiji. A strong advocate for the involvement of more women in sport, in 2002 she was awarded the IOC Women and Sport Trophy of Oceania in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the promotion of women in sport.

“It is just amazing to see our athletes go beyond themselves to achieve success and I think that is what we are all working for and we are hoping that they will get there. And sometimes we have to share disappointments as well but to see them rise up as we have seen them do and then overcome that with determination makes me feel very proud of what we are doing for our young people and for the sport,” Brownlee said.

Five time Olympian and Olympic champion Clint Robinson OAM was also amongst the inductees as was five time Olympian and Olympic bronze medallist Dennis Green OAM BEM. Dennis was also honoured with life membership of Australian Canoeing, .

For a list of the 2017 Inductee bios see here

See all Australian Canoeing 2017 Annual Awards winners here.

2017 Inductees
Helen Brownlee OAM
Os Brownlee
Ross Chenoweth
Phillip Coles AM
Garry Gardner OAM
Dennis Green OAM BEM
Graham Johnson
Joan Morison OAM
Jim Murphy OAM
Clint Robinson OAM
George Varcoe
Frank Whitebrook OAM