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Bond athletes clean up at Sports Star awards

Sports stars
Mayor Tom Tate with Maddison Levi, Ella Sabljak, Elijah Winnington, Flynn Southam and Jai Opetaia.

The Gold Coast Sports Star of the Year awards on Saturday night resembled the University Blues as Bond athletes took home a swag of honours.

Freestyle swimmer Flynn Southam and wheelchair rugby player Ella Sabljak were named Sports Stars of the Year while swimmer Elijah Winnington and rugby 7s star Maddison Levi shared the City of Gold Coast Mayor’s Award.  

The evening’s top gong went to Gold Coast Olympian and unbeaten world boxing champion Jai Opetaia who was crowned the Gold Coast 2022 Sports Star of the Year at a gala function at the RACV Royal Pines Resort.

Southam claimed his second Gold Coast Junior Sports Star of the Year for a stunning 12-month period which saw him claim three relay gold medals at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and four gold and two silver medals at the 2022 Junior Pan Pac Championships.

The 17-year-old claimed his first open age individual title when he won the 200m freestyle at the NSW Championships earlier this month and is now preparing for the Australian Championships and then the trials for the 2023 World Championships where he is determined to earn a start in the 100m and 200m freestyle. 

He was joined on stage by Sabljak, who claimed the Para Sports Star of the Year Award.

The 31-year-old is the star of the newly formed Bond Wheelchair Rugby side who will play the second round of the 2023 season in Brisbane at the weekend. 

Sabljak has enjoyed a whirlwind 12 months in wheelchair rugby after switching across from wheelchair basketball after claiming a Commonwealth Games silver medal last year.

Her first-ever game of rugby was at the 2022 Wheelchair Rugby World Championships where the Aussie side went on to claim the gold medal.

“I feel very thankful. I’m always very shocked when I win any kind of award, especially one of this calibre,” Sabljak said.

“I definitely wasn’t expecting it. I’m going to stick with rugby I love the challenge, it’s fun and exciting, everyone is so lovely and I love it.”

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate revealed he could not split Winnington and Levi as he announced the two Bull Sharks as joint winners of the Mayor’s Award.

Levi has become a star of the Australian Rugby 7s set-up, winning competitions across the globe including gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and Rugby 7s World Cup while Winnington is the reigning 400m freestyle world champion. 


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