Medals, crashes: Highs and lows of the Star’s sportspeople
DURING its many decades spent reporting the news, the Gatton Star has had the privilege of detailing the trials and tribulations of some truly spectacular sportspeople.
There have been Olympic medallists, cricketing greats, famed riders and record-setting racers, all of whom have left enduring legacies in the region.
Gatton racer Brendon Pingel veered into the books in 2015, winning the Aussie Racing Cars Championship with a record 33-point lead.
The success followed on from a close second place in 2014, but his attempts to defend his title in 2016 were mired by bad luck and disaster.
In July, a brutal crash left the team with a $45,000 bill to rebuild their Spirit of Lockyer car, forcing them to turn to GoFundMe to cover the cost of travelling to New Zealand for the final races of the season.
“We’ve had to rebuild the whole car, there wasn’t one piece in the car that didn’t need replacing,” Brendon said at the time.
“We were on course to finish on podium every round, only for things beyond our control to sort of cut us off.”
Even after making it to New Zealand, the troubles didn’t end, with mechanical issues in the qualifying laps and a broken axle in the first lap.
Despite the considerable setbacks, Brendon clawed his way to a respectable fifth place overall at the end of the season, forcing him to relinquish his champion title.
“We ended up not doing too badly, even after everything that happened this year,” he said.
“The car also came home in one piece and without a scratch on it.”
Withcott local and Paralympic champion Claire Keefer has established herself as an inspiration to aspiring athletes throughout the region.
Claire began her athletics career at just 14, when her brother’s athletics coach encouraged her to try throwing.
She has competed in athletics tournaments and events both locally and overseas, including the 2015 IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Dubai.
The highlight of her career came during the Paralympic Games at Rio in 2016, where she took home bronze in the F41 classification shot put, landing her shot a half-metre further than she’d ever previously managed.
“I thought a medal would be out of reach,” she said.
“But I surprised myself and now I have one in my hands.”
In the years since, she has received an outpouring of support and recognition for her success, being voted the Darling Downs-based athlete of 2016 and Darling Downs Senior Sport Star of the Year in 2017.
In 2018, a mystery nomination landed her a role as one of the baton bearers in the Queen’s Baton Relay, carrying the baton through its final stretch to the Gatton Showgrounds.
Serving as an inspiration to younger riders and showjumpers throughout the region, Guy Creighton holds an enviable record of competitions and titles.
In his 45 years in the saddle, Guy has competed for Australia at two Olympic Games and qualified for a third, taken part in 14 Nations Cups, won 13 World Cup events and claimed four Australian Championships.
He has competed in more than 80 qualifiers through the years and holds the distinction of being the only rider to hold the lead rider title at every Royal Show in Australia.
In 2018, he was given well-deserved recognition when he became the first ever person to be inducted into the Equestrian Queensland Hall of Fame.
“There are so many sports and so many people who do so much work and they never really get the full recognition of what they’ve done over that time,” he said.
“I was lucky enough to get a bit of recognition. It’s an honour.”
He said the Olympics were still the highlight of his career.
“Nothing compares to the Olympics. It’s the fact that if you’re there, you’re top of the country,” he said.
“If you want something bad enough and are prepared to work towards it, you can do it.”
He also spent 15 years as the Australian Young Rider Team coach, helping train the next generation of riding greats.
He now lives at Helidon and travels to events with his daughter Gemma, who has followed in his footsteps, representing Queensland and Australia.
Blazing a trail through local history for female cricketers, Katherine Raymont is a woman of many hats, and still keeps busy to this day.
During her distinguished career in cricket, Katherine became the first Queensland women’s player in 34 years to represent her country in 1990, and the first cricketer in the state to play a one-day international.
On four occasions during her career she won the state batting aggregate award and was named Queensland Player of the Year three times.
Even after her time as a player ended, she still served as state selector and coach for many years.
She has even had an event named in her honour, with teams now competing for the Katherine Raymont Shield in one-day and T20 formats.
In 2000 she was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for her contribution to women’s cricket and in 2017 was recognised for her service through a life membership from Queensland Cricket.
“Sometimes I think it’s up to yourself, you’ve got to get up there and show that you can do it. It’s not always easy,” she said, reflecting on her career.
“You need family support to help you to do these things as well. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without family.”
In addition to her sporting accolades, Katherine has worked at the UQ Gatton Campus since 1982 and is currently the president of the Gatton Show Society, with a 40-year involvement.
In her downtime she also plays with the Lockyer Veterans Cricket side and in 2018 became the first woman to captain a mixed veterans cricket side in Australia by leading out the over-60s second-division team against Toowoomba.
“I enjoy it, I really do. I can’t throw anymore but I can run and I can keep,” she said.
“I can go and play and forget about all of the other issues.”