THE Mount Gambier Swimming Club has been recognised at state level, taking out the Sport SA Event of the Year award for the 2023 SA Country Swimming Championships held at Wulanda Recreation and Convention Centre in January. The three finalists for the award were announced prior to the South Australian Sports Awards, which were held at Adelaide Oval last Friday night. Up against some tough competition, current Mount Gambier Swimming Club president Lauren Oxlade expressed her pride for the club and all involved in making the event a success. “We are ecstatic,” she told The Border Watch this week. “There was a lot of work and from a small team that pulled it together and to be recognised at a state level is pretty amazing.” Oxlade said there were no expectations heading into the night. “You know that you have run a quality event, but against all of the sports in all of South Australia it is a big ask,” she said. “We were pretty excited to be a finalist in the first place.” The other two finalists were Gymnastics SA for its Junior State Championships and Grange Golf Club for LIV Golf. LIV Golf has attracted global recognition and was always going to be tough to beat. “Initially when they were announced, LIV Golf was in the same category as us,” Oxlade said. “We didn’t think we really had a chance, but we made sure we went to the event and represented the club and our sport. “We were fortunate to be rewarded on the night.” In the end the judges were unable to decide between the top two events and instead the award was split into two categories. “We didn’t know until the announcement on the night that they had opened up by saying the judging panel couldn’t decide between two great events,” Oxlade said. “They decided to split it into major event and community event.” The swimming championships secured the community event trophy, which was accepted by those representing the club on the night. Nathan Stratford – who was president of the club during the event – and his wife Sarah were joined by Oxlade and her daughter Jess, who is a swimmer with the club. Oxlade said it was something special to receive recognition for the countless hours which went into planning and hosting the championships. “An event like that takes at least 12-18 months to plan and the (Wulanda) centre was well and truly still under construction during this time,” she said. “Part of the award was based around the uncertainty – even 30 days prior (to the event) the centre wasn’t finished. “We managed to pull it off and that was a credit to City Council in particular and the effort they put in to getting it open.” Oxlade also recognised the general public who remained patient waiting for access to the pool facilities. “The community had a brand-new facility after three years without a pool and then we wanted to close it for four days to run a championship event,” she said. “It was a big ask but people were really generous with their attitudes and spirit to support the event. “We were really grateful for that.” The championships attracted more than 430 swimmers from across Australia and is estimated to have brought more than $1 million into the local economy. “It was a real credit to the committee for pulling it together,” Oxlade said. “Nathan, leading that at the time, was unwavering in his belief that the centre would be open and the event would go ahead. “Even when some of us got a little shaky, it was that leadership which got us through.” The Mount Gambier Swimming Club has now made a bid to host the Country Championships again in 2025 and awaits the announcement to whether it is successful.