Victorian Institute of Sport

James goes back-to-back

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

With an unbeaten season, triple Olympian Scotty James has been awarded the coveted VIS Award of Excellence for a second consecutive year.

James won gold at six out of six events throughout the 2018/19 season including wins at The Dew Tour, X Games, US Grand Prix, Laax Open and the US Burton Open, as well as a third consecutive FIS World Championship title, an unprecedented feat as the first-ever snowboarder to do so.

James is now in the same category as the likes of fellow VIS athletes; Cadel Evans, Cathy Freeman, Kim Brennan, Drew Ginn & James Tomkins as dual Award of Excellence recipients.

“Cadel Evans, Huge fan. Cathy Freeman I grew up watching her at the Olympics and it was always inspiring so to be placed up alongside those two is pretty special and I’ll pinch myself every time I look at it.” James says.

The function was held at Carousel on Albert Park Lake and was attended by over 250 athletes, staff, partners and stakeholders, and recognised and celebrated the outstanding sporting achievements of VIS athletes from a year which brought us World Champions, World Records and a whole lot of Personal Bests.

Six main awards were presented including; the Award of Excellence, the Para Award, 2XU Rising Star Award, the Sarah Tait Spirit Award, the Performance Lifestyle Award and the very special Frank Pyke Achievement Award. In addition, a Coach Award is given to one athlete in each Tier 1 sport who is most deserving within this calendar year.

Award of Excellence:

The Award of Excellence, which honours the athlete who has achieved outstanding sporting results during the year, while contributing to the promotion and development of their sport, has been previously won by notable champions such as Catherine Freeman, Lydia Lassila, Cadel Evans, Mack Horton and Dylan Alcott - it is the pinnacle of VIS Awards.

The 2019 finalists for the Award of Excellence were snowboarder Scotty James, cyclist Kelland O’Brien and rowers Lucy Stephan and Katrina Werry.

After becoming the first-ever snowboarder to finish the season undefeated, Scotty James was awarded the 2019 Award of Excellence for a second consecutive year.

James won gold at six out of six events throughout the 2018/19 season including wins at The Dew Tour, X Games, US Grand Prix, Laax Open and the US Burton Open, as well as a third consecutive FIS World Championship title.

“I’m pretty stoked I get to be hung up against the wall with some other amazing athletes and legends that I admire.” He says.

James says that whilst being able to stand on top of the podium at every event was exciting, he knows that it can be taken away from him at any point.

“It’s been challenging for me to date, to get to where I am, but I think it’s going to be even more challenging to stay here. But, I’m excited for that. As long as im aware that it can be taken away from me at any moment, if I take it for granted, then I never will.”

Scotty is an active role model and mentor within his sport as well as a great ambassador for winter sports and the sporting community. He’s played an active leadership role within the newly structured National Park & Pipe Program which targets young athletes with potential to be medal contenders at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games. 

Scotty has also recently been working closely with the OWIA and Mt Buller to secure the best possible National training facility for halfpipe here in Victoria. He has spent considerable time and effort to try to bring this to fruition and has gladly volunteered his time and effort to assist with this project.

On winning his second-consecutive Award of Excellence, James wanted to praise the Victorian Institute of Sport community.

“The VIS has been an amazing support network every time I’m home in Australia. Snowboarding is a sport that is outside the box and it can be challenging at time to get support in areas that I need. But, I know the VIS will always have my back and are very adaptive to me and what I was trying to achieve.” He says.  

Unfortunately Scotty was unable to attend the event, but Dad, Phil and Sister Rebecca accepted the award on his behalf. However, in true Scotty-style, the loveable boy from Warrandyte prepared this unique acceptance message;



Frank Pyke Achievement Award

World Champion Water Skier and notable academic and researcher in workforce diversity, and human rights and advocacy, Dr Kevin Murfitt AM, was presented with the very special Frank Pyke Achievement Award, recognising him for not only his athletic achievements, but for his work outside of the sporting arena.

Kevin became totally blind after a car accident when he was 24 years old.  Prior to his accident Kevin had skied socially, but never jumped or tricked.  He met an international water skier (single leg amputee) who encouraged him to join the Geelong Water Ski Club and learn the three events for tournament competition.

Kevin began skiing competitively in 1993 and became the Overall World Champion in 2001, 2003 and 2005, as well as holding world records in Tricks (1997) and Jump (2005).  Kevin also skied regularly in able-bodied Trick competitions.  When competing Kevin relied on his guide dog, Traka, who would jump into the water when Kevin finished skiing to guide him back to shore by allowing Kevin to hold on to his tail!

At the end of his competitive career Kevin focused his efforts on his study and completed his PhD in 2006 on the topic “Attitude change in employment of people with disability” from which he developed the Willing and Able Mentor (WAM) program. 

In 2017 Dr Kevin Murfitt was recognised for his services to the blindness and low vision community in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. The award acknowledges Dr Murfitt’s achievements and contribution to the blindness and low vision community. For more than 20 years, he has selflessly volunteered his time, expertise and leadership in order to advance the social inclusion of people with disability.


The Sarah Tait Spirit Award, presented by Gatorade:

The Sarah Tait Spirit Award, named after the late rower Sarah Tait, was presented by former VIS athlete and four-time Olympic medallist Daniel Kowlaski to resilient netballer, Renae Ingles. Like the Award’s namesake, Renae is an inspiration in life as well as netball and is a fantastic role model to athletes, both past and present.

In 2017 Renae ended her stellar netball career and decided to head to the USA to support husband Joe in his NBA pursuits with her two twins; Jacob and Milla.

Earlier this year one of her twins Jacob was diagnosed with autism. Consequently, Renae and Joe have devoted boundless time and energy to the Autism Awareness campaign. As a Board member of 4ASD kids autism organisation, she was instrumental in working with Marvel Stadium to install a sensory room for the children.

On the court, Ingles record speaks for itself, winning just about every significant title on an individual, team and national level. And with a drive and desire to play one more season, Ingles came home to the Vixens for one more crack at a Netball title.

Although the Vixens just fell short, eliminated in the Semi Final, Ingles is retiring for good this time.

Looking forward, in 2020, she’s embarking on the Ingles Trek Kokoda fundraiser which will be followed with eager eyes.

Unfortunately Renae was unable to attend the event, but teammate, Kate Moloney accepted the award on her behalf. However, Renae prepared this acceptance message: 




Performance Lifestyle Award:

Para-Alpine Skier Mitchell Gourley stepped onto the World Championship podium again this year with a bronze medal in the Slalom. But, you could argue that his achievements off the slope have been just as impressive and why he was awarded the William Angliss Performance Lifestyle Award.

To his Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Melbourne, Mitch also this year added a Master of Business from Deakin University and he’s commenced Cert 4 in Career Development.

Gourley fills a broad range of “diversity and inclusion” roles for Netball Victoria and is also an Education Officer at St Joseph’s College Geelong.

Mitch also contributes to a State Sporting Organisation “Working Group” and Proud2 Play as well as working closely with the Victorian State Team for athletes with intellectual disability.

To top off his list achievements for 2019, Gourley is also heavily involved in the VIS Community Programs as part of VIS Tours and the BeFit. BeWell. schools visit program.


Para Athlete Award:

The Para Athlete Award was presented to wheelchair tennis ace Dylan Alcott. For years now, so many at the VIS have looked on with a sense of great satisfaction as Alcott has progressed from his para basketball career to become world number one in wheelchair tennis and a leading disability spokesperson on the national stage.

In 2019, Alcott claimed titles at the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon.

Unfortunately Dylan was unable to attend the event due to his training and competition schedule, but sent this acceptance video message:




2XU Rising Star Award:

2XU’s Custom Business Development Manager Will FitzGerald presented the Rising Star Award. This award recognises the young athlete who has achieved outstanding sporting results during the year, complemented by success in other areas of their life.

The 2019 award was presented to joint winners Amy Lawton (Hockey) and Jemima Montag (Athletics).

In just her second year in open competition Jemima Montag was never outside the top ten at the elite level in the 20 and 10 kilometre Walk. Montag won the Australian 20km title in December last year and finished runner up in that event at the World University Games.

However, her highlight came at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, where she placed 10th in a very experienced field of 45 competitors.

Off the track, Montag is completing a Bachelor of Science at the University of Melbourne and also gives time to the Fruit Box Group delivering free food to insecure families.

Meanwhile, Amy Lawton managed to make her debut for the Australian Hockeyroos team earlier this year in April.

At the young age of seventeen, Lawton has not looked back selected for the four nation tournament in Tokyo where she scored her first goal, which followed up with another one at the Oceania Cup competitions. All this, whilst completing year 12 at Haileybury college.

Lawton is also extremely dedicated to her local club Southern United, where she coaches, umpires and even works in the canteen, helping her qualify for La Trobe University’s early entry Aspire Program.



Award of Excellence 2019 -  Scotty James

2XU Rising Star Award 2019 – Amy Lawton and Jemima Montag

Sarah Tait Spirit Award 2019 – Renae Ingles

Para Athlete Award 2019 -  Dylan Alcott OAM

William Angliss Performance Lifestyle Award 2019 – Mitchell Gourley

Frank Pyke Achievement Award 2019 – Dr Kevin Murfitt AM




ATHLETICS – Linden Hall

CYCLING - Carol Cooke

CYCLING - Graeme Frislie

DIVING - Emily Chinnock

GOLF - Andre Lautee

MEN'S HOCKEY – Josh Simmonds

WOMEN’S HOCKEY – Carly James

NETBALL - Sacha McDonald

ROWING - Ben Coombs

SAILING – Tess Lloyd

SHOOTING - Penny Smith

SWIMMING – Mack Horton


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