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Anthony • 15 mins
The 2017 Pacific School Games will be a big gathering of talented young athletes competing hard for their state or country, but the most important thing for all students throughout the week is to have fun, says Anthony Koutoufides.
Ahead of the 10th edition of the event to be staged in Adelaide from 3 – 9 December the former AFL star remembers when he won gold in the high jump at the 1984 Games while climbing the ranks as a teenage football prospect.
Koutoufides was in grade six at the time living with his family in Thomastown and placed first with a 1.56 metres clearance at Olympic Park in Melbourne.
“Reflecting back in grade six when I competed, it’s all about having fun at such a young age, you don’t have to be the best at that time,” Koutoufides said.
“As long as you are having fun and not going crazy with it, and just enjoy the experience because that’s what it was all about.
“I even remember getting the clothes, like the Victorian tracksuit and the gear, I was just really proud to be able to walk around the streets knowing I’m representing the state.
“It was a proud thing to have that jacket because especially with migrant parents, we didn’t have a lot of money, so for us back then it was a real privilege to be able to wear it.”
Koutoufides has always had a strong passion for athletics and as a young child he would dream of competing at the Olympics, doing what his sporting idols did on television.
Even at the age of 44 he is still incredibly fit and still enjoys the feeling of pushing himself while training in the gym or on the track with his regular group.
“As a young kid I wanted to be an Olympian or play VFL footy,” he said.
“The Olympics, I watched them all, and I used to borrow every book they had in the library and cut out pictures from magazines and put them on my wall.”
Not long after Pacific School Games, Koutoufides became a junior national high jump champion, a title that was later taken by Olympic and world championship bronze medallist Tim Forsyth.
The powerful teenager then set his sights on bettering his older brother’s times in the 110m hurdles, which led to an under 17 national title in 14.18 seconds ahead of Craig Furber.
“It was always athletics and footy but at school we did everything, you know we played soccer and basketball,” Koutoufides said.
“I do remember the Pacific School Games, because it was at Olympic Park here in Melbourne.
“I just remember all the different countries and we had badges and we’d go and swap them with all the other kids, one of the greatest experiences for me who was only in grade six.
“It was just a great experience to be able to go out there and compete.”
While he was setting records at the track Koutoufides was also on the path for AFL stardom and at the tender age of 14 he was invited by Carlton to join their junior squad.
Only five years later he made his debut for the Blues in 1992, three years later won a premiership and after a career of 278 games won two club best and fairest awards.
“I’ve seen a lot of talented athletes and football players walk in and out the door very quickly because their attitude wasn’t right,” he explained.
“So sometimes that struggle to be able to make it, makes you better than the ones who have talent and just think they can do it.”
The Pacific School Games will run from 3-9 December delivering a sporting, educational, cultural, social and life-long experience to more than 4,000 school-aged students who will compete across 11 sports.
Athletes who have competed at the Pacific School Games include basketball player Patty Mills, swimmers Kyle Chalmers, Emma McKeon and Ian Thorpe along with track stars Cathy Freeman and Melinda Gainsford-Taylor.
Supporter Passes to the Games are available for purchase which include entry to all sports and functions, along with discounted offers at selected eateries throughout the city.
Travelling via public transport will be free with the Supporters Pass that will also provide access to the Opening Ceremony and Games Village.
The 10th Pacific School Games are proudly supported by the South Australian Tourism Commission through Events South Australia.