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Our sporting brand comes Alive

Edition 202_SportingAchievement

Local entry Alive was declared overall winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race on 30 December, putting the icing on a Christmas cake of Tasmanian sporting achievements.

Swimmer Ariarne Titmus, 18, started it all when she won the women's 400m freestyle at the World Short-course Swimming Championships in Hangzhou, China, and became the State's first swimming world record holder in the process.

Cricketer Tim Paine and runner Stewart McSweyn also excelled in their chosen sports in December, helping to drive Tasmania's sporting brand.

As Hobart basked in glorious weather and its annual global media spotlight, Alive crossed the finish line in fifth place behind line-honours winner Wild Oats XI and three other super maxis.

Owner Phillip Turner and skipper Duncan Hine had to wait for other handicap contenders, including Wild Oats X, Chutzpah, Smuggler and defending champion Ichi Ban, to finish before the champagne could be splashed around.

Alive is the first Tasmanian boat to win the coveted Tattersall Cup handicap trophy since Screw Loose in 1979.

The maxi Tasmania, skippered by fast-ferry pioneer Robert Clifford, took line honours in 1994.

Alive is based at the Derwent Sailing Squadron in Sandy Bay, not far from the Sydney to Hobart finish line.

Turner said his 66-footer, purchased in 2014, would be back to defend its title in 2019.

Hine told the ABC: 'That was part of our ambition, to finish in our home port, to win one of the world's toughest and greatest races and show that you can dream.'

Alive subsequently took line honours in the annual King of the Derwent.

In swimming, Titmus's extraordinary 400m freestyle swim in Hangzhou eclipsed the best that her legendary rival, American Katie Ledecky, has been able to do.

It was faster than the best achieved by a host of great Australian swimmers – from Dawn Fraser and Shane Gould to Leisel Jones, Cate Campbell and Emily Seebohm.

This was quite some swim and will focus international attention on the hard-working Tasmanian in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Titmus won by more than half a second from former world record holder and home-nation favourite Wang Jianjiahe.

It was the Queensland-based Tasmanian's second gold medal. She had set an Australian and Oceania record in winning the 200 metres freestyle earlier in the meet.

Titmus is Tasmania's first world swimming champion since Scott Goodman won the 200 metres butterfly in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1995.

In cricket, Tasmania's Tim Paine, 34, was feted as a national sporting saviour after leading a beleaguered Australian team to an upset Test win over world front-runners India.

Only last season Paine couldn't win selection in Tasmania's team after a morale-testing series of finger injuries threatened to end his once-flourishing career.

Fox Sports commentator Kerry O'Keeffe claimed to have known alcoholic butchers with better fingers than Paine.

After returning to the Test squad for a South African tour, Paine unexpectedly became Australia's interim captain in the wake of a ball-tampering scandal in Cape Town.

Captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft were sent packing and were subsequently suspended from national duties.

The demoralised Australians struggled from that point on and many of their supporters lost faith in their capacity to lift team behaviour while remaining aggressive enough to be internationally competitive.

Victory eluded them in South Africa, in a two-Test series against Pakistan in the UAE and in the first Test against the touring Indian team in Adelaide.

Inevitably, there was sniping at Paine and his leadership credentials.

Then, after nine months of soul-searching and struggling, Paine’s men levelled the four-Test series against India on a tricky wicket in Perth's new Optus Stadium.

They were ascendant from the moment Paine won the toss and they stayed on top of the world's No.1 team despite superstar captain Virat Kohli scoring his first century on tour.

Under a heading 'Tim's doing Tassie proud', The Mercury editorialised: "Tim Paine would surely be returned in a landslide if there was ever a popular vote to decide our cricket captain.

"Not only did the boy from Lauderdale prove he is among the world's best wicketkeepers, he also showed his value as a middle-order batsman – and perhaps most notably took no backwards step when taunted by the aggressive … Kohli.

"In doing so, Paine has got the entire cricket world talking."

India confirmed its No 1 world ranking in the third and fourth Tests, but the promise and fighting spirit shown in Perth had refreshed the sport in Australia, as well as silenced some of Paine's detractors.

Paine’s Test leadership was again impressive as the Australians won decisively over Sri Lanka in Brisbane.

In the shortest form of the game, the Hobart Hurricanes had a cracker season in the Big Bash League, finishing top of the table of the national 20-over competition. Unfortunately though, they lost last week’s semi-final, in front of a packed home crowd, against a talent packed Melbourne Stars team.

In athletics, Stewart McSweyn, 23, completed his rise in a single year from near-obscurity to be Australia's outstanding endurance runner.

On a windy 12 December evening in Melbourne the King Islander won his second consecutive Zatopek: 10, the nation's premier 25-lap event.

A year ago, McSweyn came from nowhere in the same event to out-sprint the favourite, Patrick Tiernan, and launch an amazing 12 months of achievement in distances ranging from 1,500m to 10,000m.

This year he started as a hot Zatopek favourite and hoped to eclipse the Australian record (27:24.95sec) set by Ben St Lawrence in 2011.

After dominating the field from the halfway mark and winning by a good margin in a personal best time of 27:50.89, McSweyn told reporters: "The conditions were a bit harder as there was a lot of wind.

"I thought maybe if everything went well I could get close to that national record but … I’ll have to wait for another day to have a good dip at it.

"It’s a 15-second PB [personal best] and … shows that I’m in good form and I just have to keep that momentum going."

McSweyn became the first Australian since Steve Moneghetti in the early 1990s to win back-to-back Zatopeks.

After his 2017 breakthrough, McSweyn finished fifth in the 5,000m and 11th in the 10,000m at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

He improved dramatically in subsequent European competition, running PBs and Tasmanian records at 1,500m, the mile, 3,000m and 5,000m.

McSweyn's not a big man but he is towering over the Australian pack at present in terms of versatility and sheer promise.

Tasmanians were making their marks in other sports.

Hockey veteran Eddie Ockenden secured a Hockey World Cup bronze medal to add to his impressive collection when Australia beat England 8-1 in a play-off in Bhubaneswar, India.

The Kookaburras had been relegated to the play-off after losing a semi-final to the Netherlands.

Ockenden, who plays professionally in India, had previously won two World Cup gold medals, as well as Commonwealth Games and Champions' Trophy gold medals.

Cyclist Amy Cure collected a silver medal in the Madison event at the UCI Track World Cup in London.

Teamed for only the second time with South Australian Annette Edmondson, Cure improved on her bronze medal in the same event at the 2017 World Championship.

And it’s been a great start for Tasmania’s new AFLW team – The North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos.

After a convincing win against Carlton in their curtain-raiser at North Hobart Oval earlier this month, they backed it up with another very impressive 31-point victory last Friday at UTAS Stadium in Launceston against the Western Bulldogs.

This was the third victory from three games and took the North Melbourne Tasmanian Kangaroos to the top of the table.

Image courtesy of ABC News

18 February 2019, Edition 202

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