St George Olympians celebrated with new exhibition

The Australian women's track relay team, Fleur Mellor, Norma Croker, Betty Cuthbert and Shirley Strickland, which won the 4x100 metres at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. Picture: Supplied
The Australian women's track relay team, Fleur Mellor, Norma Croker, Betty Cuthbert and Shirley Strickland, which won the 4x100 metres at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. Picture: Supplied

A significant number of St George Olympians have taken part in the modern Olympic Games since it began in 1896.

Now, in the lead up to the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, a new exhibition at Hurstville Museum and Gallery will celebrate these national and local icons.

Striving for Gold: Olympians of St George will showcase Olympic memorabilia as well as stories from the St George region's former Olympians to provide insight into the world's biggest sports competition.

Georges River mayor Kevin Greene encouraged locals too check out the exhibit in the lead up to the games.

"As we get closer to the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, it is important for us to look back at our history to celebrate our very own Olympians of the St George area, as well as cheer on our 2021 Australian team," he said.

Athletes noted that they trained hard to participate in the Olympics using council facilities, such as Hurstville Oval.

The region's clubs, including St George Women's Amateur Athletics Club, St George Hockey Club and St George Cycling Club, also harboured some of the areas top sporting talent.

Featured in the exhibition will be the Olympic Torch carried in the 2000 Olympics torch relay by Hurstville local, Pauline Jean English OAM; a Paralympics swimming champion in the 1970s, winning gold in the Women's 25m Butterfly 4 event.

English recalled that she "was very lucky with the people of the St George area".

In order to compete in the 1976 Toronto Paralympics, Australian athletes needed to raise money for uniforms, airfares and accommodation, and the St George community rallied around English to help raise the $2,500 required.

Striving for Gold will also showcase stories of local gymnasts Ellen Maher and Bruce Sharp.

Competing in the 2019 Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi, Maher said: "I felt happy, proud to be representing Australia, excited and strong."

Meanwhile, Sharp's story highlights the development of technology and equipment in the sports, as he remembered training for the 1956 Olympics in his family's backyard with homemade equipment.

Ron Riley, a local hockey player who competed in three Olympic Games described it as, "a real privilege and something that you'll take to your grave".

"You'll always be an Olympian...to always say that you're an Olympian is just something really special," he said.

Striving for Gold will bring together diverse topics associated with the Olympic Games through a mix of stories, objects, memorabilia, photographs and personal recollections drawn from Hurstville Museum and Gallery, along with loans from public and private collections.

Striving for Gold: Olympians of St George is on display at Hurstville Museum and Gallery from May 8 2021 until July 18 2021.

An event to mark the opening of the exhibition will take place on Friday, May 7 from 6pm.

For more information or to RSVP for the opening event, visit www.georgesriver.nsw.gov.au/HMG.