Quest for sheep dog trialling at Brisbane Olympics has legs

Terry Sim, February 10, 2023

Kelpie breeders and triallers Gary White, left, and Ken Atherton at Port Fairy’s Gardens Oval, as Al Davies and Hilton’s Frank put their three sheep through the race at the 2023 Commonwealth Championship Sheep Dog Trials.

THE campaign to introduce sheep dog trialling as an Olympic sport in Brisbane in 2032 is continuing with the realisation the sport could meet the necessary criteria.

Angie White, the wife of top yard and utility trialler and Kelpie breeder Gary White, raised the idea in 2021 and received overwhelming support from dog triallers on social media.

Subsequent letters to politicians and the Brisbane Olympic Committee in 2021 received no responses, but at a three-sheep trial in Victoria this week, Angie said she would continue her campaign. And despite also receiving an initial lacklustre response from the International Sheep Dog Society, Angie said the support for the idea was strong internationally and she was confident the sport could meet the Olympic sport criteria.

New Olympic sports need to satisfy certain criteria

The 2032 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXXV Olympiad and also known as Brisbane 2032, is an upcoming international multi-sport event scheduled to take place from 23 July to 8 August 2032.

Head of Public Affairs for the Australian Olympic Committee Strath Gordon told Sheep Central this week that any new sport would need to demonstrate that it has an international governing body, that it complies with the Olympic Charter, runs men’s and women’s competitions (gender equality), can maximise the popularity of the Olympic Games (audiences & revenue) while containing costs and complexity, and is relevant to young people, that is, attract new audiences.

He said the Organising Committee Board for the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games (OCOG) is new, has very few staff and there are no application forms as yet, nor people to evaluate applications and make recommendations to the board.

“For now I think the sport needs to do some due diligence so that any future application contains all the necessary ingredients for success,” he said.

“At this stage, the Brisbane 2032 Organising Committee is not yet ready to begin assessing any applications for new sports, but that will come in time.”

Angie said dog trialling is a popular, international sport, where men and women compete equally, and it is attracting new younger entrants, including from urban working dog owners taking an interest in herding workshops.

“We just came back from Sweden, Switzerland and Norway and they all are keen working dog people, so it’s all over the world,” Angie said.

“I definitely think there would be great interest.”

She said the number of people watching the 2023 Australian Sheepdog Championship at Koroit last week and the Commonwealth Championship Sheep Dog Trials in Port Fairy this week, indicated the strong public interest in the sport.

A recent Facebook post of the White’s Kelpies Facebook page ‘Bush kelpies seeing the beach for the first time’ received 4700 likes, 123,000 views, 223 shares and 321 comments, further indicating the popularity of working sheep dogs, she said.

“That’s insane.”

She believed three-sheep trials were probably more popular than yard trials internationally.

“It would be better off to be a three-sheep trial, whether it is a combination of UK, New Zealand and Australian rules, whatever, it would be awesome.

“This is an opportunity going to waste.”

She said the running of an Olympic three-sheep trial would be able use existing infrastructure (an overall) with little expense and she would continue to lobby the ISDS for its support. Men and women compete in the sport equally worldwide, would add to the popularity of the Olympic Games and is attracting young triallers.


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