When the Commonwealth Games takes place on the Gold Coast next year, it will bring back incredible memories for Burleigh resident Sam Riley. The swimming champion won three gold medals at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Canada, and a gold and silver medal in 1998 in Kuala Lumpur. Fast forward 20 years and she’s excited about being involved in the famous sporting event in her home town.
"It will be great to share the games experience with my kids."
Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist
“I was nine years old when I went to the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane with my family,” she recalls. “Watching the opening ceremony planted a seed in me about how great it would be to be part of a team and take part in an event like that.”
Just 12 years later she won her first Commonwealth Games gold medal in the pool. “I have wonderful memories – not only of winning but the whole event,” she says.
“The village atmosphere is amazing, and for athletes the camaraderie is brilliant. It’s great to cheer each other on as teammates and not just be a solo competitor as many of us are most of the time. It will be wonderful to see that team spirit taking place on the Gold Coast.”
Sam grew up in Brisbane but spent weekends on the Gold Coast “hanging out at Burleigh beach”. The pull of the beach was strong and she moved to Burleigh with her husband in 2004. Now her three sons, 13, 12 and seven, enjoy the perks of living by the beach. “I go for a dip in the ocean before work and the boys often surf before school – I’m always telling them how lucky they are,” she says. “The Gold Coast ticks all the boxes for a lovely family life.”
Sam may not be competing in the 2018 Commonwealth Games but she’s looking forward to experiencing it from a different point of view. “I’ve launched the volunteer program and MC’d various events,” she says. “But most of all I’m looking forward to being a spectator. It will be great to share the experience with my kids.”
She thinks the Gold Coast is the perfect place to host the Games. “We have amazing beaches, hinterland and so much else to offer,” she says. “The Gold Coast has really grown up.”