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The 2019 Leonora Golden Gift - One for the record books

The 2019 Leonora Golden Gift will be talked about for many years to come. With a diverse range of events, the weekend’s festivities embraced both locals and visitors alike. Considered by many in the town as “the best weekend of the year”, the famous atmosphere did not disappoint.

Annually, the star attractions of the Golden Gift are the elite milers, those who come from all corners of the country to do battle for the prestigious gold nugget. This year was no exception, with both Stewart McSweyn and Georgia Griffith winning their respective races in dominant fashion, both using the event to fine tune their craft ahead of next year’s 2020 Olympic Games.
 
However, the true highlight of the weekend is the immeasurable local talent on show in the junior races. In their biggest sporting event of the year, the local kids ran with their hearts on their sleeves. Predominantly barefooted, all winners appeared to float across the ground, barely skimming the bitumen surface. After all the races had finished and the kids had received their medals from the elite runners, event manager Ross Johnson could barely contain his pride. His belief that the kids of Leonora have it in them to qualify for an Olympic Games is symbolic of his passion for the community. 
 
“They’ve got the talent, and the natural form of their running is flawless,” he said. “If they kept it up, I have no doubt that they would probably be some of the best athletes in the world.”
 
(Courtesy of the Kalgoorlie Miner)
 
For Raf Baugh – who coached the athletics clinics leading into the race – simply witnessing the kids develop new skills and confidence was the most rewarding aspect of the weekend.
 
“The biggest satisfaction for me is seeing the kids get some self-confidence and self-belief,” he said, before referring to the story of local town hero Kiara Reddingius, who is set to represent Australia after getting her start in athletics at the Golden Gift as a child. “Her story shows that anything is possible.”
 
(Photo by John Forbes https://www.metrophoto.com.au/)
 
Alongside this heart-warming spectacle, the weekend was awash with activity. From the inland arts prize to the work boots sprint, the action refused to relent. At the Saturday horse races, Leonora’s glamorous took to the runway in the highly anticipated Golden Gift fashions on the field. Local mum Kelly Perrin stunned the crowd with a blue and white floor-length skirt, to be judged the winner ahead of a record number of entrants. The win, and the $3000 that accompany it, clearly came as a surprise to Ms Perrin, who was taking part for the first time.
 
“I’m really excited. Really happy,” she said.
 
(Photo by John Forbes https://www.metrophoto.com.au/)
 
Another person that wowed the town was famous Australian singer/songwriter Pete Murray, with his concert sending the crowd into party mode. With dancing in the street spreading to the bar, the night represented the unity of the event, as everyone came together to chat and reminisce, as a series of fireworks rose high into the desert sky. For one former local, Anne – who had been born in the region in 1935, but not returned for over fifty years – the night symbolised the importance of the event.
 
“It means an awful lot to the town, and it brings the community together,” she said. “It brings back a lot of memories.”
 
With the 2019 edition of the Leonora Golden Gift set to go down in history as one of the best, planning has already commenced for the weekend in 2020. The gift has put Leonora back on the map, and it will continue to do so. Above all, one day it will provide Leonora with an Olympian of its very own. There is no doubt about that. See you next year!
 
Written by Jared Clifford - Leonora Golden Gifty

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