WA Institute of Sport searches for Olympians of the future

Olympic canoeist Jesse Phillips was identified through a WAIS talent ID weekend. Picture: Andrew Ritchie
Olympic canoeist Jesse Phillips was identified through a WAIS talent ID weekend. Picture: Andrew Ritchie

IN 1999 at the age of 13, Olympic sprint kayaker Jesse Phillips was plucked from the schoolyard at Aranmore Catholic College and identified as a future champion.

This month, he will be putting possible future Olympians through their paces to help identify athletes of the future at the WA Institute of Sport (WAIS) Talent ID (TID) weekend.

WAIS staff, including Phillips, Performance Team Pathway director Jo Richards and physiologist Martyn Binnie, will work with the state bodies for rowing, canoeing and cycling to identify teenagers aged between 13 and 17 who have the physical aptitude for the sporting disciplines.

Phillips said he went through testing during PE at school before joining the “cream” of Perth’s secondary students for more testing and eventually joining the WAIS kayak program.

“I had a boyhood unrealistic dream of going to the Olympics,” he said.

“It was always in the periphery for me but I didn’t identify with it until I got accepted in to WAIS.”

Jesse Phillips in training

Phillips made his international debut for Australia in 2003 and competed in the London 2012 Olympics where he teamed up with Stephen Bird to finish 6th in the 200m kayak sprint.

He went to the Rio 2016 Olympics as a kayak coach where he again worked with Bird, who finished 8th in his first individual international final.

Phillips said his journey had taught him what athletes needed to demonstrate to succeed.

“So much of competing in Olympic level sport is about your mental approach and burning desire to be the best,” he said.

Cyclist Luke Durbridge (third from left) was identified at a Talent ID weekend

Binnie said staff would conduct a range of generic tests that would allow staff to profile the basic physical capacities – leverage, strength, endurance, power etc. – required to perform in cycling, rowing and kayaking.

“These will include an assessment of physical stature such as height, weight and wingspan, upper and lower body power demonstrated through a vertical jump and medicine ball throw, and endurance capacity tested via a beep test and body plank,” he said.

“Following the completion of this initial batch of testing, selected athletes will be invited to test for more sport-specific tests of strength, flexibility and endurance that will further highlight suitability across the different sports.”

Richards said WAIS was in the unique position to be able to promote a pathway to Olympic sports.

“WAIS provides an excellent daily training environment and expert coaching in these three sports,” she said.

“With the TID program we hope to improve the local talent pool in WA clubs who may then go on to become WAIS athletes in the future.”

WHAT: Talent ID for rowing, canoeing and cycling
WHEN: September 22-23
WHERE: WAIS, Mt Claremont
CONTACT: wais.org.au or call 9387 8166


WAIS rowing coach looking for commitment over talent

WHEN WA Institute of Sport (WAIS) coach Rhett Ayliffe scouts for the next Olympic kayaker, he looks for commitment over talent.

“Our sport isn’t mainstream so everyone starts on the same level,” the head rowing coach said.

“With kayaking and rowing, everyone comes to it with no skills so anyone can be good at it.

“No hand eye coordination is needed.”

Rhett Ayliffe (WAIS Head Rowing Coach), Sam Marsh (22) Scarborough and Siena Zamin (20) Cottesloe. Picture: Andrew Ritchie

However, Ayliffe said discipline and commitment was essential because kayakers had to repeat the same motion over and over again, “which is quite a unique skill”.

Ayliffe will be among WAIS coaches and staff searching for the next Olympian at a Talent ID (TID) weekend this month.

WAIS kayaker Sam Marsh was a Christ Church Grammar School student when he was identified at a TID event in 2013.

Athletes accepted in to the WAIS rowing program must be part of a junior or under-23 national team and demonstrate they have potential to move to the next level.

“We’ll be looking for physical attributes, mental capacity and technical proficiency,” Ayliffe said.