Finding next Cathy Freeman, Ian Thorpe the mission of Ian Chesterman as Australian Olympic Committee president

The Tasmanian who has become one of the most powerful people in Australian sport says his goal is to inspire kids to be “the next Cathy Freeman, the next Ian Thorpe”.

An Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) executive for more than 20 years, Ian Chesterman has succeeded John Coates, who announced he was stepping down from the role last week.

Chesterman beat his only challenger, Olympic swimming silver medallist Mark Stockwell, by winning 67 out of 93 votes from delegates in Sydney on Saturday.

Chesterman has served as chef de mission for six Winter Olympic teams and at the Tokyo Summer Games.

Currently residing in Legana in Tasmania’s north, Chesterman said he came to the role with a very deep background in Olympic sports.

“Across all those years you learn a lot about Olympic movements, you make a lot of connections and I think what you also learn is a real philosophy on how you want to approach leadership,” he said.

“For me, it’s very much about how we serve our athletes, how we create opportunities for young Australians, and how we make for a really bright future for Australian sport and Australian Olympic sports.”

Cathy Freeman celebrates gold in the Women’s 400m Final at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.(Nick Wilson: Allsport/Getty)

One of his first tasks will be to secure ample funding to retain and develop talent, particularly in women’s sports.

In recent years, professional pathways have opened for women in major sports competitions, such as the AFL and NRL, which could mean a stiffer challenge in keeping athletes focused on winning Olympic medals for Australia.

‘We want to inspire kids’

While the next Olympic Games will be held in Paris, in 2024, the new president is already looking beyond that.

Chesterman hopes to inspire the next generations of Australian athletes in the lead-up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2032, to be held in Brisbane.

“We want to inspire kids to be the next Cathy Freeman, the next Ian Thorpe,” he said.

Chesterman said they were mounting a case to the federal government to increase investment in sports for young Australians.

“There are so many problems we have in our society such as mental health, obesity, social cohesion, and sport can play a real role in helping the government address those,” Chesterman said.

“We need to make a really clear pathway for people and we need to give the resource to our sport to actually offer the best programs, you know we’re competing against the best in the world.

Chesterman praised for Tokyo pandemic games

Rowing Australian chief executive Ian Robson said it was an outstanding appointment and he was thrilled to have a fellow Tasmanian in the role.

“No matter where you come from, in our great continent, whether it’s mainland Australia or the island of Tasmania, the ability to chase your dreams and to work hard are the key ingredients to giving yourself any chance of bringing those dreams to reality.

“It’s a wonderful story for Tasmania to have him living in Launceston but literally speaking to the country, but on behalf of the country speaking to the world.”

Ian Thorpe opens his account
Ian Thorpe won five gold medals in his career, three of them coming at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.(Getty Images)

A long-standing chef de mission of Winter Olympics teams, Chesterman was widely praised for shepherding the Australian team through the Tokyo Games during the pandemic.

Robson said the new president gave the athletes a very calming message during the lead-up to the Summer Olympics after a year-long delay.

“To reassure our athletes that things were on track, preparations were proceeding, and that they should just remain focused on their preparations, which is what they did.

“He’s very connected, great values, just a wonderful person, both professionally and personally, I am looking forward to working with him in the years ahead.”

Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff also extended his congratulations to Chesterman.

“It’s just another example of Tasmanians … not only doing Tasmania proud but highlighting that Tasmanians can do and be whatever they want to be,” he said.

Targa Tasmania 2022 cars lined up, a day after the death of Tony Seymour.
The Targa Tasmania event of 2022 was rocked by the death of Tony Seymour.(Facebook: Targa)

‘We all had tears in our eyes’

Targa Australia chief executive Mark Perry said Chesterman became the media manager of the car race in 2007. 

On Wednesday, Chesterman was tasked with managing the news of the fatality of a competitor, by Thursday he was in Sydney in preparation for the AOC vote. 

“It was good to have some good news this week, to be honest, and watching Ian win that vote live on TV, we all had tears in our eyes,” Perry said. 

“He’s an amazing man and he’s achieved so much in his life and this is a culmination of so many years of work for him and we were all just felt like proud parents really, watching it all play out.

Perry said the new president was “a humble man” and many people in Launceston would not be aware of his latest success. 

“He says hello to everybody, there’ll be no airs or graces with him,” he said.

“It’s massive for Tasmanian sport, and Tasmanians generally, to have a Tasmanian heading up an organisation as big as that. 

“It’s huge for Tasmania, it’s not something that usually happens.” 

Reference-www.abc.net.au

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