On Twitter, I often use the hashtag #ausathsrising because it's easy to see the great progress our sport and athletes are making at home and on the world stage.
On the eve of competition getting underway in London for the World Para Athletic Championships, I believe this rise of Australian athletics will continue to build with growing member participation and outstanding competitive results, as we pick up momentum into our home Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
In the coming weeks, Team Australia will compete at four championship events, with 37 para-athletes to do battle at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park from later this evening, before 23 take to the field of play at the Commonwealth Youth Games and 12 compete at the World Junior Para-Athletics Championships. More than 45 athletes will then don the green and gold at the IAAF World Championships and an impressive 47 will compete alongside the Australian Uniroos at the Summer Universiade.
We were also proud to send a team of more than 100 to the recent Oceania Athletics Championships in Fiji, an event commendably delivered by the Oceania Athletics Association.
The ability to select such large and strong teams for global competition is testament to the efforts of our athletes, their coaches, family and friends and, the support provided by our High Performance Program and the network of national and state institutes/academies of sport.
This exciting period of action ahead follows what has been an inspiring 2017 for Australian athletics.
The year began with Coles Nitro Athletics Melbourne, a game-changing three-event series that welcomed five national teams including Australia, England, China, New Zealand and Japan and one international team led by the one-and-only Usain Bolt.
Nitro Athletics captivated the nation, with an impressive 1-million-person reach on free-to-air coverage on the Seven Network, complementing the more than 24,000 people that came through the gates of Lakeside Stadium to take in the action live.
Our colleagues from across the world were also enthralled.
The IAAF President, Lord Sebastian Coe, declared to reputable online athletics publication Spikes that Nitro Athletics is “a great example of what can be done and what needs to be done to revolutionise how we present our sport and how our fans connect with the sport and the athletes.”
Our expectation is that Nitro Athletics will continue to deliver for Australian athletics, with increased commercial revenue, renewed interest in the cornerstone sport of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and continued profile for the next generation of track and field stars.
The 2017 Australian Athletics Championships were also ground-breaking.
For the first time, able-bodied and para-athletes aged under 14 through to open came together to compete as one at the Sydney Olympic Park Athletic Centre.
More than 3000 participants took part in the pinnacle of domestic athletics competition and the precinct became home to Australian track and field for eight outstanding days.
The mission of Australian athletics is to be OneSport, committed to building Australia’s largest and most active participation base and to support our athletes to reach their full potential.
Our purpose is to improve the health, social, wellbeing and performance outcomes of Australians through their involvement in walking, running, jumping and throwing.
Athletics Australia, in conjunction with our hardworking Member Associations, continue to build solid working relationships with Little Athletics Australia, Australian Masters Athletics and parkrun, ensuring a pathway for those participating in the sport from their initial interaction through to retirement.
Together we are collaborating to ensure the provision of conventional and complementary athletics programs and events to the largest possible number of participants.
Australian athletics also continues to grow our presence in the school environment, with 52,169 primary school aged students taking part in the Australian Sports Commission funded Sporting Schools Program.
This is enhanced via our efforts to expand the presence of Australian athletics in the recreational running space.
The Blackmores Sydney Running Festival, Seven Sunshine Coast Half Marathon and Sunday Mail City-Bay Fun Run will host the Australian Marathon, Half Marathon and Road Running Championships respectively in 2017, while our partnership with parkrun moves from strength to strength as that organisation serves as a gateway to recreation running and walking and our outstanding athletics clubs.
The AusPlay Survey recently published by the Australian Sports Commission identifies athletics, including runners and joggers, as the sport with the largest participation base.
Our challenge is to engage with this more than three-million strong cohort who, at a rate of 74%, declare their greatest motivation for being involved as their physical and mental health and fitness.
Australian athletics is also committed to giving back to our community.
Athletics for the Outback has expanded its reach in 2017 thanks to a new partnership with GE, ensuring our ability to deliver several new engagement experiences for Indigenous Australians and additional community tours to some of the nation’s most remote locations.
Our intention is to continue to show leadership in this area. Indigenous athletes have helped shape our sport and the Australian Olympic landscape. Our partnership works to ensure all Australians have access to the opportunities in life they deserve.
The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games are now on the horizon and the opportunities presented by a major competition like this on home soil are invaluable.
In the coming days, we will announce the national athletics calendar for the 2017-2018 Australian Athletics Season. We encourage your engagement with what will be an exciting time to participate.
Impressively, 70 athletes have already staked their claim to be nominated for selection by achieving the Commonwealth Games ‘A’ Standard.
This number will grow as competition at the London 2017 World Para-Athletics Championships and IAAF World Championships begins and I extend my best wishes to our athletes.
Australia and our athletics family will be cheering you on.