Barty claims the Don Award, Peter Norman recognised for his courage

Ash Barty and the late Peter Norman have been recognised with the two highest honours from the Sport Australia Hall of Fame for 2022.

Ash Barty, a three-time Grand Slam Champion has been awarded the Don Award, representing the athlete (or team) who has provided the most inspiration to the nation through performance and example in the past year.

The Ngaragu woman is the third recipient of the award to have won it multiple times, having also been the winner in 2019.

The former World number one entered the year with the weight of the nation on her shoulders, with all the expectations of a home Grand Slam win for the first time in more than four decades. Barty thrived, winning all the way through to the final without dropping a set, playing with the nation behind her, in one of the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Just months after the magical moment, and still the top-ranked player in the world, Barty announced her retirement from professional tennis.

In her retirement, she acknowledged that she could not continue to devote the time and effort to remain number one, so she was turning to new pursuits.

At the time, she said “I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional want and everything it takes to challenge yourself at the very top of the level anymore. I am spent.”

On receiving the Don Award, Barty said “I am so honoured to win The Don Award, one of the most special acknowledgements in Australian sport.

“This year was certainly my most enjoyable Australian Open, result aside, that had nothing to do with it. It felt free. I played without consequence, I played like a little kid.

“In my eyes, there was no pressure. It was just about me trying to redeem myself, in a way, and playing how I’d always wanted to play – go out there and play like the kid that fell in love with sport.”

The Dawn Award is named for Dawn Fraser AC MBE, recognising a courageous ground-breaker who has demonstrated achievement against the odds and challenged the status quo. It is long overdue recognition for the late Peter Norman.

Norman, who was a great of Australian athletics, is best known for his courage off the track. The Australian sprinter was part of a landmark moment at the medal ceremony after the men’s 200m final in 1968 at the Mexico Olympic Games. Norman, whose time of 20.06 was an Australian record that stood into the 21st century, won the silver medal and was standing on the podium with Tommie Smith and John Carlos.

Smith and Carlos raised a gloved fist each, in what was known as the Black Power Salute, as part of a protest about the treatment of African-Americans in the United States.

At the time, Norman’s decision to support the protest by Smith and Carlos made him a pariah, While there was no official decision to ostracise Norman, he was not selected for the 1972 Olympic Games at Munich.

Despite that, Norman’s courage was never forgotten, and his powerful stance has been immortalised in images and burned into memories. Smith and Carlos were grateful for his support and were pallbearers at his funeral in 2006. A few years later, in 2012, the Australian Government issued an apology for how he was treated.

Norman’s late wife, Jan, reflected on this award for her late husband.

“This would’ve meant everything to Peter, and certainly to the family, it’s wonderful for us,” she said.

“It's such a shame that he’s not here to see all this. They have a statue of him at Albert Park Lake, they apologised in Parliament to him and he’s won various other awards… he would have been absolutely delighted.”

His widow explained that even the commemoration of the moment, which doesn’t actually include Norman in the statue had brought the sprinter joy.

“Some people weren’t happy that Peter wasn’t on the statue (with Smith and Carlos). Peter was fine about that because he thought ‘this is great because other people can stand in my place and be part of the whole thing as well’, so he was more than happy that it was just the two on the statue.”

Athletics Australia, in 2018, recognised Norman’s contributions by creating the ‘Peter Norman Humanitarian Award’ to honour his legacy. In 2022, Peter Bol was the recipient of the award, while Meriem Daoui was the recipient in 2021, for her work raising funds for cancer and working with Muslim Women in sport.

It caps a historical journey for Norman, but one that he is finally recognised for his immense contribution to bringing a conscience to Australian sport. This year has seen new growth in public causes being supported in sport – with the Australian men’s cricket team taking a knee in solidarity with the touring West Indian side before the start of the Adelaide Test earlier today, and Barty continuing her advocacy for Indigenous Australians, despite not being an active professional athlete.

A fitting circle of recognition for two greats of Australian sport, the late Peter Norman, and Ash Barty.