A walker wins the Academy’s first prize

RACEWALKING continues to leave its mark on Ballarat’s rich elite sporting history.

Fraser Saunder, 17, was named WestVic Academy of Sport Athlete of the Year at a recent ceremony hosted by the Ballarat Sportsmen’s Club.

Saunder is the current National Under-20 10,000m Walking Champion and represents Ballarat YCW and Ballarat Walkers.

Now in his final year of high school at Ballarat Grammar, Saunder has been competing since the age of nine and was a finalist alongside table tennis player Rory Carroll, swimmer Edward Meddings, rower Lucy Richardson and of BMX rider Jai Copland.

“I was shocked to win Athlete of the Year, but very happy to have been selected, as the other finalists are all great athletes in their own right,” he said.

“The Academy caters to a wide variety of sports, and athletics is still relatively small in the global sphere compared to other team sports, so it’s good to have recognition for athletics and walking.

“I am very grateful to my coach Daryl Biggin for his support. Come rain, hail or shine, he goes out, is always supportive, rides his bike and provides constant feedback on technique to all walking athletes.

Saunder not only represented Victoria, but Australia, competing in the hilly, hot and humid World Championship in Athletics in Oman earlier this year.

His team finished fifth in the Under-20 division and he came 15 individually.

“It was more of a mental challenge than a physical one because all the boys were in super shape. It was about who could outlast themselves mentally,” he said.

Athlete of the Year finalists rower Lucy Richardson, table tennis player Rory Carroll, walker Fraser Saunder, swimmer Edward Meddings and BMX racer Jai Copland.

A WestVic Academy of Sport athlete for three years, Saunder continues to get extra support from the organization to perform at his best.

He was able to access Federation University sports facilities, received tailored programs including strength and conditioning training, learned about injury prevention, nutrition and good sleep habits.

WVAS chief executive Shenae Keleher said the board reviewed the performances of all finalists over the past 12 months to decide who would win athlete of the year.

“Given that Fraser is number one in the country for his age, we couldn’t get past that, in addition to his selection for the World Championships,” she said.

“He has been one of the most dedicated individual athletes we have. Whatever sessions and education we provide, he is always first on the RSVP list and takes every opportunity.

“He always tries to improve as much as he can.”

Ms Keleher said WVAS board members are grateful to their awards hosts, the Ballarat Sportsmen’s Club, and sponsors for helping organize the night of celebrations.

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