Some of our outstanding Northern Rivers Olympians

WE'VE had some fantastic sportspeople come out of the Northern Rivers over the years, including some fantastic Olympians and Paralympians.

Here are just a few:


Jacqueline Freney.
Jacqueline Freney. Cathy Adams

Jacqueline Freney

Skennars Head swimming star Jacqueline Freney was just 20 when she smashed world records to win eight gold medals at the London Paralympics in 2012, having won three bronze medals at the 2008 Beijing Games.

In 2012, she was named Ballina Shire's Sportsperson of the Year, the 2012 Australian Paralympian of the Year overall and the Female Paralympian of the Year.

In November 2013, she was named NSW Young Australian of the Year for 2014, and in 2014 was named Young Australian of the Year.

On Australian Day 2014 she was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia, and in October 2014, she was inducted into the Path of Champions at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre.

Now 23, and battling a mystery illness, Jacqueline announced she will not be heading to the Rio Games later this year.


Rosalyn Lawrence competing at the 2015 Australian Open Canoe Slalom.
Rosalyn Lawrence competing at the 2015 Australian Open Canoe Slalom. SPORTSCENE: Rob van Bommel

Lawrence sisters

Rosalyn Lawrence and Jacqueline Lachmann (nee Lawrence) are two of the superstar slalom sisters from Old Bonalbo.

At the 2008 Summer Olympics, Jacqui won silver in the K-1 event.

Rosalyn won a gold medal in the C-1 team event at the 2013 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships in Prague together with Jessica Fox and Alison Borrows, and won the overall world cup title in the C-1 category twice (2011 and 2012),as well as in 2009, when it was a demonstration event.

Rosalyn also won the Sickline Extreme race in 2012 and the Wildwater World Championship in C1W in 2011.


Petria Thomas celebrates after a gold medal performance. Photo Contributed
Petria Thomas celebrates after a gold medal performance. Photo Contributed Contributed

Petria Thomas

This gold medal swimmer was born in Lismore and grew up in Mullumbimby.

As a teenager, she won two gold medals (in the 100-metre butterfly and 4×100-metre freestyle) at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, and went on to win a silver medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

She won three gold medals at the 2001 World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, before heading to the 2002 Commonwealth Games, where she won five gold, one silver and one bronze medals.

She followed this with three gold and two silver medals at the 2002 Pan Pacific Championships in Yokohama, Japan.

After battling injuries, in 2004, she made another comeback at the Olympic selection trials, where mshe broke the Commonwealth records in the 50-metre and 100-metre butterfly, set new personal best times in the 100-metre freestyle, 200-metre freestyle and narrowly missed the world record in the 200-metre butterfly.

Petria finally managed to achieve gold at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, when she won the individual 100-metre butterfly, and was a part of two world record setting teams in the 4×100-metre freestyle and 4×100-metre medley relays.

She was subsequently chosen to carry the Australian flag at the closing ceremony.

Thomas announced her retirement from competitive swimming at the conclusion of the games.


Athol McQueen
Athol McQueen Samantha Elley

Athol McQueen

Kyogle's former heavy-weight boxing champion of Australia competed in the 1964 Olympics in Toyko, facing Smokin' Joe Frazier in a quarter-final where he knocked him to the canvas in the first round.

He was the first man ever to accomplish that feat.

Frazier eventually knocked McQueen down in the third round, but the referee controversially did not apply an obligatory eight count.

After this lack of communication, McQueen thought the fight had been stopped and walked towards his corner where the bout was then declared over.

It was a controversial ending, and while Athol concedes he probably would not have won the fight, he said he would have finished the bout.


Kerry Saxby
Kerry Saxby Mireille Merlet-Shaw

Kerry Saxby-Junna

Kerry, who grew up in Ballina, represented Australia 27 times in international competitions and set 32 world records or world bests.

She won a 27 Australian Championships and 13 individual international medals before retiring in 2001.

Among these events, she competed at the 1990, 1994, and 1998 Commonwealth Games, and the 1992, 1996, and 2000 Olympic Games.

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