The Conversation

  • Written by Andrew Bennie, Director of Program, Health and Physical Education, Western Sydney University

Many Indigenous athletes have represented Australia at the Summer Olympics. But, in Pyeongchang, figure skater Harley Windsor is set to become Australia’s first Indigenous Winter Olympian.

While Windsor’s selection deserves celebration, it’s surprising it has taken until now for an Indigenous Australian to compete at a Winter Olympics.

A northern hemisphere legacy

Many of the sports included in the Winter Olympics are expensive to compete in and typically involve travel to specialist facilities. The costs often force Winter Olympians to turn to alternative funding sources to support their efforts.

Winter sports are associated with northern hemisphere countries, particularly those from Europe and North America. As a result, the sports on show at the Winter Olympics are often:

… dominated by children of white families, many of them fairly wealthy.

Despite these sentiments, participation at the Winter Olympics is not confined to the global north, or rich white kids. South American involvement started with Argentina at the second Winter Olympics in 1928. Africa has been represented at the Winter Olympics since 1984; both Nigeria and Eritrea can now be added to the growing list of African nations to have competed.

Jamaica will again compete in Pyeongchang. Its first involvement in the 1988 Calgary Olympics was mythologised in the film Cool Runnings, which (inaccurately) portrayed its participation as somewhat comedic. The country has since participated at several Winter Olympics, finishing as high as 14th in the four-man bobsled in 1994.

Winter sports are also popular in Australia, which claims to have the world’s oldest ski club, formed in 1861. The inclusion of new events will increase the appeal of winter sports across the world. It’s claimed that Pyeonchang will be the most diverse Games ever.

Read more: Snowboarding and freeskiing got to the Olympics by carving their own path

In Harley Windsor, Australia has its first Indigenous Winter Olympian – why has it taken so long? Jamaica competing at the 1988 Winter Olympics. Getty Images

Global Indigenous participation at the Olympics

Indigenous Canadian athletes (First Nations, Inuit and Métis) have competed at the Winter Olympics for more than 80 years. Many have won medals: Kenneth Moore, a Peepeekisis First Nation man, won gold in ice hockey at the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics.

Ice hockey players Brigette Lacquette (from the Cote First Nation, and the first First Nations woman on Canada’s hockey team) and Rene Bourque (Métis), and curler Kevin Koe (a Gwi'chin First Nation descendant) will represent their First Nations and Métis communities in Pyeongchang.

Another noteworthy moment occurred when Norway hosted the 1994 Winter Olympics. Sámi man Nils Aslak Valkeapää arrived on skis before opening the games with a yoik (a traditional form of singing). This entrance was symbolic given it is believed the Sámi people invented skis before 2,500BC.

Indigenous Australian representation

Indigenous Australians have had much greater involvement at the Summer Olympics and Paralympics, with more than 40 Olympic and 11 Paralympic representatives over time.

The consistent representation means generations of role models have paved the way for ongoing ambitions to compete in Summer Olympic sports. But the lack of role models in winter sports may be inhibiting intent (and interest) from within the Indigenous Australian community.

Historically, Indigenous Australian athletes have been typecast as being more suited to a small number of sports they are “born to play” as a result of “40,000 years of hunting and gathering”. While this idea “celebrates” the “natural” and outstanding athletic skills of Indigenous Australian athletes, it also ties in with cultural stereotypes where success is due to innate physical capacities, rather than hard work.

Read more: Booing Adam Goodes – racism is in the stitching of the AFL

Along with few role models, these notions may have undermined Indigenous Australians’ aspirations in other sports, such as those included in the Winter Olympics. They also have negative implications for sport governing bodies that are implementing strategies to maximise inclusion and further opportunities for athletes from diverse backgrounds.

From western Sydney to Pyeongchang

Being the first to break barriers and achieve something significant is not easy.

Windsor grew up in western Sydney – a region that’s more likely to be associated with rugby league or cricket. His entry into the world of winter sports reportedly occurred by accident, when he stumbled upon an ice rink in Sydney’s west.

His rise has been rapid, particularly since being paired with Russian-born Ekaterina Alexandrovskaya in 2015. His story demonstrates that, regardless of background and stereotypes, success can be achieved with the right support from family, peers, coaches and sport governing bodies.

A descendant of the Weilwyn, Gamilaraay and Ngarrable peoples, Windsor is a proud Indigenous man whose visibility before, during and after these Winter Olympics may just be the catalyst to inspire future generations of Indigenous Australian athletes.

Authors: Andrew Bennie, Director of Program, Health and Physical Education, Western Sydney University

Read more http://theconversation.com/in-harley-windsor-australia-has-its-first-indigenous-winter-olympian-why-has-it-taken-so-long-91309


George Neophytou supports roads funding and more

Independent candidate for Gippsland East George Neophytou has pledged to support completion of duplication of the Princes Highway between Traralgon and Sale and to upgrading of the Sale alternative ...

Scott Morrison interview with Alan Jones

Belt and Road Initiative; Law and order in Victoria; Queensland infrastructure; Power prices; Paris Agreement; Immigration; Negative gearing.   ALAN JONES: Prime Minister, good morning.   PRIME ...

George Neophytou a real force to stop the Fingerboards Mine

George Neophytou a solicitor contesting the election as an Independent Candidate has been an activist against the Fingerboards Mineral Sands Mine for over two years. His track record shows ability a...

Business News


Hussh . . . The Secret is Out Your exclusive invitation to 9 massive warehouse sales this week The secret to huge savings is shopping directly from the warehouses of Australia’s biggest wholesa...

Web Wisdom - Simple Ways to Increase Sales as an e-Commerce Website

The online marketplace is a virtual paradise for consumers who love a bargain. Today’s e-commerce has become so evolved that consumers not only have purchasing power, but they also can influence maj...

Digital marketing agencies are fudging the numbers and distorting the outcomes for their clients

Many digital marketing agencies manipulate reports to make themselves look good, offering vanity stats that really provide no benefit to their clients. One of the most common mistakes companies make...


Pet-Friendly Summer Destinations in NZ

No one wants to leave their pet at home and why should you have to? When it comes to traveling around in a campervan hire New Zealand, you may not want to live your precious animal back home. You shou...


DON’T GET SLUGGED WITH THE SIX-HUNDRED-DOLLAR CHRISTMAS TAX Revealed: traditional car rental companies charging 3.3 times more to rent a vehicle over Christmas A comparison of rental costs per day...

Looking for a Romantic Destination? Here’s Why the Philippines May Be Perfect for You

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/couple-man-woman-girl-guy-love-2585328/Perhaps, you want a spot to celebrate your honeymoon after several months of wedding planning. Or, maybe you are just loo...