It was wonderful to receive so many nominations for AFA awards this year, with 82 submissions overall. We appreciated that many of you recognised the work done by the AFA board. However, we think it’s vital to celebrate those outside of the board who are so generous with their time and contributions – often they don’t get as much visibility and we think it’s time to change that. There are many outstanding athletes, coaches and volunteers within the AFA , and as freediving grows it is great to see an increasing number of people lending support to others. Our community is one of our greatest assets – it was one of our absolute highlights of the year to read all of the nominations and see the hard work and successes of our members.
Individuals were sometimes nominated in multiple categories, so we provide a shortlist of some of the exceptional candidates below:
Shortlisted members: Ryan Beecroft, Jarrod Briffa, Amber Bourke, Matthew Chew, Craig de Vos, Ben Eckert, Danny Hurst, Sayaka Itagaki, Wayne Judge, Jack Michael, David Mulheron, Anh Tu and Leigh Woolley
– Congratulations from the AFA Board
Best Male Athlete: David Mulheron
STA 6:53, DYNB 122, DNF 115, CWT 61, CNF 60, FIM 38, CWTB 86
David’s versatility as a diver is self-evident: he competed in 7 of the 8 disciplines across pool and depth during 2019. He set and is the current national record holder for CWTB, as well as giving our best STA and the deepest CNF performances for the year. David also represented Australia at the 2019 AIDA Depth World Championships, and overcame significant adversity in achieving these outstanding results during a difficult year. As this is only his second year of competitive diving, we are very much looking forward to seeing David’s achievements as he develops in the future.
Best Female Athlete: Amber Bourke
STA 5:43, DYNB 169, DNF 151
Amber is a consistent high performer, and 2019 was no exception. She finished the year as Australian Women’s Pool Champion, and also finished second overall at the Freediving New Zealand Pool Nationals. Amber set and is the current national record holder for DYNB and also holds national records in three other disciplines.
Best male newcomer: Ben Eckert
STA 6:19, DYNB 178, DNF 141
Ben finished 3rd overall for the Australian men at his first competition, the AFA Pool Nationals 2019, as well as 3rd overall at the NZ Pool Nationals 2019. He set the DYNB national record twice and is the current record holder for this discipline.
Best female newcomer: Sayaka Itagaki
STA 5:04, DYN 152, DNF 117
The 2019 AFA Pool Nationals was Sayaka’s first competition, and with consistently exceptional performances at a large event, she finished 3rd in STA, 3rd in DNF, 2nd in DYN and took out silver overall for the women.
Best Sportsmanship – Daniel (Danny) Hurst
Danny is known as one of the nicest blokes in the sport. He acts as a mentor to numerous competitors and also volunteers his time as a safety. This year, through his business, he has sponsored many competitions and athletes. In exemplifying the spirit of sportsmanship, Danny ran a fundraising drive to support another athlete who was attempting to, and ultimately did, break Danny’s own national record in CWTB.
Best Coach: Wayne Judge
Wayne, a founding member of our community, volunteers his time twice a week to coach the Bullsharks Freediving Club. His understanding of elite performance, and ability to get the best out of a diver, is apparent by his coaching of two athletes to national records this year. Wayne’s grassroots contributions were also evident through his landslide of nominations, receiving 22% of nominations across all categories.
Best Volunteer: Craig de Vos
Craig is pivotal in organising and running training sessions, inductions and competitions at SAF, and showed true dedication this year when he continued to do so during a serious health scare. Despite being in recovery from surgery, and being unable to train himself, he continued to come to the pool and help others through coaching, mentoring and supervision.