Time to celebrate. It was a delighted Eleanor Patterson who saluted the packed Hampden Park venue after claiming the gold, shortly before her team mate, Sally Pearson thrilled the crowd again with an emotion-charged 100m Hurdles win. Photo: Getty Images
THERE’S got to be something in the water.
Last week it was Leongatha’s favourite son, Jarryd Roughead, emerging as one of the region’s greatest-ever footballers.
This week it’s the girls’ turn to shine after Eleanor Patterson, Lisa Alexander and Kaila Hutchinson-McKnight did us proud, on the world stage, at the Commonwealth Games.
Their success has been greeted with unbridled joy in Glasgow and also back home in South Gippsland.
Starting at the top, Victorian Deputy Premier and proud Gippsland South MP, Peter Ryan, has issued an official statement congratulating the trio; Eleanor for her gold medal jump, Lisa for leading the Diamonds to victory and Kaila for winning through to the final of the 1500 metres.
Kaila and Eleanor were even ‘roomies’ in the games village!
What a week they’ve had and what a week we’ve had celebrating their achievements.
South Coast Athletics Club former treasurer Paula O’Loughlin said it best.
“It’s just nice to see something positive on the telly for a change!”
Of course she also congratulated Eleanor and Kaila, two products of their enviable program.
In relation to Eleanor’s gold medal jump she said:
“It’s an unbelievable achievement. She just goes about what she does with the aim of doing her best and it just so happens that her best is better than everybody else’s.
“And that’s what the Little Aths and South Coast Athletics clubs’ programs are all about; allowing the kids to do their best in any situation.”
Very, very proud
Leongatha’s number one citizen, South Gippsland Shire Mayor Cr Jim Fawcett, was delighted.
“The people I have spoken to in Leongatha this morning were overjoyed. We’re very, very proud of her,” he said last Saturday.
“I’ve only met her on a couple of occasions but each time I have I have been impressed with her poise and her mature attitude.
“She’s a great ambassador for Australia, for our shire and for Leongatha.
“We should also acknowledge the efforts of her coach, David Green, and her family. A great achievement all round and no doubt they’ve had a wonderful experience over there and we look forward to seeing them when they get home.”
And it’s next stop Rio for Eleanor and hopefully for Kaila too with many commentators tipping Eleanor as one of the top ten Aussies to watch out for as the 2016 Olympics approaches.
Does that light the fuse for Rio? Eleanor was asked on TV after winning the gold in Glasgow.
“Yes, I just want to jump higher and see where that takes me.”
With lounge room lights twinkling all over Leongatha at about four o’clock last Saturday morning, the clutch jump for Eleanor came when she was the first of the remaining three competitors to go over 1.94m. That put her into the gold medal position and forced the experienced St Lucian jumper, Levern Spencer, to try for 1.96m which she ultimately failed to clear.
Eleanor admitted later that she didn’t know she had won the gold medal at that point but was determined to push on to 1.96m herself and possibly a personal best.
“I was definitely nervous but I tried to stay calm and I got through I guess.”
And what about Leongatha?
“I love my coach, my family and where I live.”
What happens now?
“Anything is possible. I just want to keep jumping higher and go for bigger things.”
What are you going to do to celebrate?
“Nothing special. Just being around them (my family, coach and friends) would be amazing.”
And that’s just what she did after a hectic round of media engagements.
Her mum, Helen could not have been more proud but she shared her joy with all the locals with this post on Facebook:
“Who’d have thought that little Leongatha could produce so much talent in the Commonwealth Games. Congratulations to the talented runner Kaila McKnight, a finalist in the 1500 metres. Congratulations to my beautiful Eleanor on her success in the High Jump – you are amazing. But the accolade must go to Eleanor’s local coach David Green. Without David, Eleanor would not be the athlete she is or reach the heights she has in every sense of the word! Thank you David and the entire Green family for the hours, the dedication, the commitment and the friendship you have given to Eleanor over the past 7 years. Unfortunately you don’t get a gold medal but you deserve so much more. How privileged we are in this community to have someone so passionate and so talented. Thanks super coach!”
All that remains now is for Eleanor, or ‘Floss’ as she is affectionately known, to come home to a hero’s welcome and Mary Mackillop College already has the red carpet out. Here’s what college principal Michael Delaney had to say:
“The Mary MacKillop Catholic Regional College community joins with everyone in congratulating Eleanor Patterson, her parents Mark and Helen and her family on her gold medal in the High Jump at the Commonwealth games.
“Eleanor, her family and her coach David Green have worked extremely hard to reach this goal with plenty of support from all sectors of the Leongatha community. Her journey started with the encouragement and support she received from her primary school PE days with Lachie Hughes and continued through the Leongatha Little Aths and South Coast Athletics clubs to where she is today.
“Eleanor’s humility, dedication, focus and self-discipline are admired by everyone in the College community. She is a wonderful role model for students, staff and everyone associated with our College.
“Her achievement is made more spectacular because she is also completing her Year 12 studies in the VCE. Her ability to balance the demands of training to compete at such a high level and those of completing Year 12 is amazing and another way in which she demonstrates commitment, balance and dedication to all that she undertakes. Her teachers have been very supportive in helping her to manage this in a cooperative and supportive way.
“The entire College community is excited and proud of Eleanor’s achievement. I know her Year 12 peers in particular are celebrating her success. We will be very excited to see her when she returns to school and will organise an appropriately joyful celebration for her.
“Eleanor has a lot of family support in Glasgow with her and we wish them a happy celebration. We hope they get a few days of rest to before returning to Leongatha and continuing to work towards her next goal in the high jumping world as well as completing her Year 12 studies in November.”
Ultimately everyone in the local district has drawn a lot of pleasure and inspiration from the efforts of our Commonwealth Games representatives as evidenced by the posts on Facebook and Twitter over the weekend.