By Tyler Parker
With a focus on supporting the emerging talent within Australian sport and celebrating the next generation of sport stars, three athletes have been selected as Commonwealth Games Australia Emerging Athlete of the Year finalists.
Selected from a group of 12 outstanding athletes, Charli Petrov, Alex Saffy and Sunday Aryang have been nominated as finalists, with the winner set to be announced at the Commonwealth Games Australia President’s Function in May.
Having made her Commonwealth Games debut as Australia’s youngest athlete at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, diving prodigy Charli Petrov said she was “grateful for the opportunity” to be recognised as a finalist.
Paired with stalwart diver Melissa Wu in the Women’s Synchronised 10m Platform, the proclaimed ‘master and apprentice’ claimed gold as they dived their way to glory by just 7.14 points. Speaking to the performance, Petrov said it was “the most amazing thing ever”.
Set to be a star of the future, Petrov has shown that age is no barrier with continued success leading to two gold medals at the FINA World Junior Diving Championships 2022, alongside her nomination as a finalist and Birmingham gold medal.
“For me, this award stands for all that hard work and efforts put into my sport and not only by myself, but my family, coaches and support team over the past few years to get me to where I am today, in emerging and beginning my journey into the life of elite sport.”
Another Commonwealth Games debutant at the Birmingham Games, Alex Saffy’s transition from able-bodied competition to para-swimming has paved the way for his success. Originally from South Africa, Saffy has made a splash in the pool over the past 12 months with numerous high-quality performances
Labelled the ‘Bunbury Bullet’, the highlight of Saffy’s year was his silver medal in the 100m Butterfly S10 in Birmingham, in which “standing on the podium was a dream come true”. The medal marked a key milestone in his young career and was the recognition of a childhood dream.
“It was a goal of mine since I was a little kid to represent my country at the Commonwealth Games… so for it to come true at such a young age felt surreal,” Saffy said.
Saffy also made his international debut at the 2022 Para World Championships in Portugal where he claimed bronze in the Men’s 100m Butterfly (S10), with his performance awarded the Wally Foreman Foundation Scholarship, which aims to help rising sports stars in WA.
A worthy nomination as a finalist for Emerging Athlete of the Year, Saffy said it was a “huge honour to be considered, especially amongst so many other phenomenal athletes.”
Saffy also added “I am appreciative of all the support I’ve had from Commonwealth Games Australia who ensured all athletes had such an incredible experience [at the Birmingham Games]. Being on a team of so many talented athletes across so many different sports has motivated me to keep working hard to hopefully achieve a spot on the team at the next Games.”
The inaugural Emerging Athlete of the Month recipient, Aryang’s rapid rise from the domestic league to the Australian Diamonds has capped an incredible 2022 season for the young netballer.
Making her debut in Australia’s quad series in London, Aryang became the first African-born women to represent Australia, with Aryang saying “it’s always been a goal of mine (to represent Australia) and it’s just great to be able to achieve something so big not only for myself but for the African community”.
Debuting for the West Coast Fever in 2019, Aryang has become an integral part of the defensive circle, with her athleticism and ball-winning ability helping to guide the team to the 2022 Suncorp Super Netball Premiership.
However, Aryang capped off the year with the Diamonds at the 2022 Birmingham games, with the team reclaiming the prized gold medal that had slipped their grasp four years earlier on the Gold Coast.
A phenomenal year in which she has put her name up in lights, Aryang is a deserving finalist for Emerging Athlete of the Year.
Following outstanding years in their respective sports, Petrov, Saffy and Aryang represent an emerging group of talented sporting stars who are set to shine on the world stage as Australian athletes.
The winner of Emerging Athlete of the Year will be announced at the annual Commonwealth Games Australia President’s Dinner, with the winner receiving a $5000 CGA Scholarship towards their sporting endeavors.