Gumboot flingers off on an Olympic odyssey

IT’S ALL IN THE WRIST ACTION: From left, Donella Vale, Rose Porter, Margaret Morris, Kevin Smith, Edie Slater, Lisa Shipley, Gloria Leigh, Ryan Taylor and Beverley Smith with the flag made by Allan Nolan. Photo: Gareth Gardner 290414GGC01

IT’S ALL IN THE WRIST ACTION: From left, Donella Vale, Rose Porter, Margaret Morris, Kevin Smith, Edie Slater, Lisa Shipley, Gloria Leigh, Ryan Taylor and Beverley Smith with the flag made by Allan Nolan. Photo: Gareth Gardner 290414GGC01

THEY’RE not your average bunch of elite athletes, but members of the Gabba Binaal group from Tamworth have been in serious training for tomorrow’s NSW Aboriginal Elders Olympics.

They left this morning on a bus bound for Kempsey, where this year’s event will be held all day tomorrow, culminating with the prizewinners’ presentation and dinner dance tomorrow night.

A steady regime of tai chi has been the preferred training method for these Olympian elders, who range in age from 55 to 82 – tai chi and a whole lot of laughter.

While the Gabba Binaal group is only small (this year it has just nine team members), they came home from last year’s NSW Elders Olympics at Port Stephens with the runner-up trophy.

“We got the shock of our lives when that was announced,” team member Edie Slater said.

“Some of the people there are quite competitive, but for most of us, it’s just the joy of going on a trip and meeting up with friends and family.”

As runners-up, you’d imagine the team members would be keen to go one better, but as Beverley Smith pointed out, “we wouldn’t get a trip away if we won” – as the winner hosts the next year’s event!

They reckon they’re on a winner with the flag local artist Allan Nolan created for them to raise as their mascot.

Events such as egg-and-spoon races, three-legged races, gumboot throwing, sack races, tunnel ball, basketball, darts, hockey, quoits, beanbag throwing and football passing keep them on the hop all day (no running is allowed but brisk walking is permitted).

Somehow they always seem to get their second wind for plenty of dancing at the Olympics’ dinner and social.

While there were strategic discussions about blu-tacking the egg to the spoon and possibly boiling the eggs ... that won’t happen. It’s just a bit of fun and good sportsmanship is key to the event.

“Going to something like this is a really uplifting experience,” the group’s bus driver and University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health representative Lisa Shipley said.

“The spiritual and cultural benefits of a gathering such as this are just priceless. 

“It is such a mixed group of countries the teams come from and the fact that they are meeting for a happy occasion is a real bonus.”

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