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Serving Up Aussie Spirit

National sporting heroes Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst reflect on their historic beach volleyball win, 20 years to the day.

Twenty years ago today, the incredible Aussie spirit lifted Natalie Cook and Kerri Pottharst to the top of the Sydney Olympics podium, winning the gold medal in the women's beach volleyball, and a place in our country’s sporting history. 


Held at a purpose-built stadium on Bondi Beach, Cook and Pottharst's win on that famous day of September 25, preceded Cathy Freeman's remarkable win in the 400m athletics at the Olympic Stadium in the evening. 


It was a magical day for Australian sport, with the whole country cheering on Cook and Pottharst as they collapsed on the sand after their win against Brazil’s Shelda Bede and Adriana Behar. 


Reflecting on the momentous victory, Cook believes the country was 100 per cent united during the Sydney Olympics, a feeling we so desperately need now as Australia comes out of the Covid-19 pandemic. 


"I think it was a fairy tale for Sydney and a fairy tale for Australia, and everyone in the country literally poured their heart and soul into the Sydney 2000 Olympic story," she said.

"Back then Australia were winning a lot of things, we were doing so well in not only the Olympic sports, but sports like rugby league and rugby union.


"I think sport was the thing that united the nation." 


Pottharst believes you can take similarities to what Australia was feeling before the Sydney Olympics and to what we are feeling now: a little bit of uncertainty.


But says if we remain positive, things can only get better.


"People are always sceptical when there is change and something new that they haven't experienced before," she said.


"Like it is now, we don't know what next year is going to bring and there is always a bit of a fear of the unknown."


Like Freeman, Cook and Pottharst went into Sydney with huge expectations as they were the No.1 seeds in their event. 


Add in the fact they were playing in front of thousands of fans at home, and at Bondi, the pressure was palpable.


Pottharst remembers the moment when it was all over and they won the Gold Medal. 

"For me it was an explosion of emotions," she said.


"Mainly just unbelievable joy, I guess. There was a little bit of fear involved there as well. 

"If I look back at the video, we were so focused. It was like I built this glass dome around us in my mind and focused on the court.


"When we won, that glass dome was shattered around us.


"It was an amazing feeling." 


Cook believes their event and win in the beach volleyball was indicative of the whole Sydney Olympics, a raging success of joy, incredible organisation, determination, and a decent dose of national spirit. 


"I really do treasure what we were able to do, not only for ourselves but clearly the whole country," she said.


"The whole Olympics that Sydney put on were really phenomenal, from the competition, the volunteers, everything. 


"It was just amazing." 


On that night 20 years ago, the couple did all their media and ended up watching Freeman's race back at the Olympic Village accommodation.


Around midnight Pottharst went back to a pub in Bondi for some drinks with friends of hers who had been there all afternoon.


Every year they both enjoy reflecting on what was a remarkable day for them personally, and for Australian sport and the nation. 


Today as we announce National Buy Aussie Day on October 1, it's fitting to look back at one of Australia's best days in sport - September 25, 2000.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Media and journalism has been in Luke Dennehy's blood ever since he started at the Herald Sun in Melbourne as an editorial assistant at 19 years of age. Luke worked for nearly 20 years at the Herald Sun reporting entertainment and lifestyle news before leaving in 2017 to pursue freelance opportunities. He also had many regular spots on radio and TV over the years, most recently on Melbourne radio station 3AW.  A passionate advocate for Australian music, food, entertainment and business, he is excited to share some of those inspiring stories along the way.



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