On Wednesday evening the Sarah Tait Spirit Award was presented to joint-winners Jenna O’Hea and Caitlin Thwaites at the 2020 Victorian Institute of Sport Awards.
Like the Award’s namesake, O’Hea and Thwaites were recognised for being inspirations in life as well as in their sports and both are fantastic role models to athletes, both past and present. It was a tough decision for the judging panel and they were impressed by the athletes’ exceptional work to raise awareness for athlete wellbeing.
2020 has been an extraordinarily difficult year for elite athletes but it was even tougher for Australian Opal’s Captain O’Hea who broke a wrist during the WNBL season and worked really hard to return to the court for the Finals.
Although the Southside Flyers had been the best WNBL team all season their two narrow finals losses only motivated the skipper to work harder in preparation for Tokyo, where she was due to lead the Australian Opals.
When COVID sank those plans Jenna threw herself into the new “iso” training regime and was a huge inspiration for not just the players in the Australian squad but for other VIS athletes who she often reaches out to.
O’Hea is passionate about raising awareness of and support for mental health. Through her initiative of personally wanting to donate $100 to Lifeline for each 3 point shot, this was then picked up by the 8 WNBL clubs and the WNBL organisation raising $15,000 and, thus demonstrating an impact beyond herself to the community.
O’Hea is a well-liked regular around the VIS gym and a huge supporter of the other athletes around her. She regularly posts congratulations messages to other VIS athletes on her Instagram when they achieve success and posts mental health messages with links to Lifeline and other support means. O’Hea is also a regular with VIS Sports medicine, utilising the physiotherapy service and working closely with Lead Physiotherapist Steve Hawkins on her wrist rehabilitation.
“It is an honour to have Renae Ingles present this award and an even bigger honour to share this award with Caitlin. 2020 has been a rough year, so to win this award is extra special this year,” O’Hea said. She continued to thank VIS Physiotherapy Lead Steve Hawkins and VIS Strength & Conditioning Coach Ben King for their help this year.
“I’m currently in the Queensland hub for the WNBL trying to win a championship just like Caitlin and the Vixens. And I hope 2020 can be the year for all of us,” O’Hea said.
The Sarah Tait Spirit Award, named after the late rower Sarah Tait, was presented by 2019 Award winner former netball star Renae Ingles and Dr Larissa Trease, Sport & Exercise Physician and Medical Advisor to ASADA. Dr Trease was formerly the Chief Medical Officer to Rowing Australia and worked closely with Tait.
Feature Picture: WNBL/Getty Images