Thorpe thanks volunteers, ‘the face of the Games’

Five-time Olympic gold medallist Ian Thorpe believes our sporting champions should not be judged on the medals they win, but the legacy they create by giving back to their sport and their communities.

As an ambassador for the Invictus Games Sydney 2018 presented by Jaguar Land Rover, the 36-year-old took time out on Wednesday morning to salute the 1000 volunteers who have given their time to assist at this year’s Games.

Thorpe was inspired to support the Invictus movement after watching the inaugural event in London in 2014.

He acknowledged the importance of volunteers, dubbing them as the “face of the Games” and highlighting the great diversity of heritage, abilities and skills they all bring to the event.

As one of Australia’s most decorated sporting icons, the Sydney-born swimmer said he felt a great responsibility to give back to those who contributed to his success on the world sporting stage.

“You make the choice to give back to what you do in a way you feel is appropriate,” a candid Thorpe said.

“For me, if you want to be a true champion in sport, you must have a willingness to pass on the baton by helping out other people.

“This is the legacy of sport and the legacy of an individual.”

Sitting poolside at the Sydney International Aquatic Centre, Thorpe not only paid homage to the yellow-shirt-clad volunteers who have embraced the event with unbridled enthusiasm, but also to those volunteers who played a role in his illustrious sporting career.

“When I think of volunteers, I think of Margaret here in Sydney or Mrs Tanner up in Queensland – I grew up with these people,” he said of his swimming life.

“Margaret would have checked me in for my races countless times here at the pool – at State level, at primary school, then the Olympics.

“On the opening night of the Sydney Games, when I busted my suit before the 4x100m freestyle relay, I ran the entire length of the pool. When I came through, there was Margaret standing with the pad for me to sign my name; she let me go out to the final when everyone else was already out there.

“I remember that moment quite specifically, she was someone who was always around to help me. For any competitors out there, that should remind you to be nice to the volunteers!”

The spirit of Invictus, which is Latin for ‘unconquered’, has ignited the interest and praise of volunteers and the thousands of sports fans, including bus-loads of school children, attending the Games.

“The gold medal in this is very different to what it is at other events,” Thorpe said.

“For some competitors, just being here is their gold medal. For others, it is about being able to complete the event and for others it is about winning the race; this the purity of what sport should be.

“The volunteers represent that; it’s a friendly atmosphere.

“This feels more like a school carnival than it does the Olympics, and that’s a really good thing; we want people who come here to experience this.”

After countless selfies and snapshots with the volunteers, Thorpe encouraged all Australians to give back to their communities.

“We have a great list of volunteers who either have a lot of experience volunteering or they have a connection to people who have served,” he said.“We also celebrate the diversity of Australia.

We have representatives that speak the language of all of the countries competing here. Our volunteers are the face of the Games.”

By Catriona Dixon

Invictus Games Sydney 2018