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Anthony • 15 mins
Olympic hockey champion Nova Peris has called on the more than 4000 students participating in the 2017 Pacific School Games to dream big and enjoy the journey of sport, just as she did as a schoolgirl.
The 10th edition of the biggest multi-sport school competition for Australian and international students officially starts today at 5pm with the opening ceremony at the Adelaide Showground.
Peris competed at the 1982 and 1984 Pacific School Games in athletics at the start of a ground-breaking sporting career that included hockey gold at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and a Commonwealth Games 200m title in 1998.
As a hockey player Peris became the first indigenous Australian to win an Olympic gold medal before switching sports to concentrate on athletics, leading to Commonwealth gold and running at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
“I remember flying over with the NT team and my mum and step-dad drove to watch me compete,” Peris said.
“My two kids competed in Brisbane 2013 and it was freaky because Jack was the same age as when I competed there at the same Games, at the same track all those years later.
“That’s the amazing thing with sport, the generations of people that I competed with, now my kids are competing with their kids.
“I just recall watching the Commonwealth Games a few months later in 1982 and you see Raelene Boyle win – she planted the seed in my head, the dreams and aspirations.
“Now I find myself in the position she was in, where people write to me saying I’ve inspired them.”
The Pacific School Games have hosted other superstar athletes as they started their careers including swimming legend Ian Thorpe, former AFL star Anthony Koutoufides and former Australian netball captain Laura Geitz.
Many students with famous surnames will compete at these Games in Adelaide as Peris’ children Jess and Jack did in 2008, and from here it has been proven that anything can happen.
“The beautiful thing with sports is you get friends for life,” Peris said of her son Jack who is the national under 14 400m champion.
“One of my son Jack’s friends, it was his birthday the other day and Jack posted on his Instagram a picture of them when they were in under 10s running against each other at Pacific School Games.
“When you’re a kid it’s all about the spirit of competition and as you get older it’s about how you want to apply yourself in training.
“I also say to kids, dream big as a kid, that’s what I did.
“So, dream big, but also remember it’s about having fun and those friends and the journey.”
The competition of elite underage talent is just one aspect of the event with students set to engage in the Games’ educational program and learn about other cultures throughout the week, with ten countries in total taking part.
In addition, a number of indigenous teams across golf, netball and basketball have been selected by their sport’s organisations to compete at the Games as a team named First Nation.
Peris is joined by Sydney Olympic 400m champion Cathy Freeman, NBA player Patty Mills and AFL star Cyril Rioli as some of the indigenous elite athletes who competed at the Pacific School Games.
“It’s awesome for any of these kids to get the exposure; it’s just fantastic,” Peris explained.
“It opens up another pathway and another opportunity for indigenous kids to participate at the highest level.
“You find now a lot of indigenous kids are moving on from the perception that they’re just going to be great footballers or rugby league players – the world is their oyster.
“Being able to promote that there is a pathway and showing that someone has gone before you is important.”
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.
Supporters 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.