Australian Masters Games

A miracle on ice for Australian Masters Games’ day seven

Anneliese Abela - 9 October 2015

A miracle on ice for Australian Masters Games’ day seven

She was an Olympic gymnast. He was a karate-practicing, ice-hockey-loving figure skater. How they came to be at the 15th Australian Masters Games in Adelaide is nothing short of a Hollywood screenplay.

Through the 1970’s, Sharon Straub was one of Australia’s best female gymnasts. She represented her nation at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, and was a national champion on beam.

Although highly successful in her chosen sport, the now 58-year-old Blue Mountains local and skating partner of New Zealand’s Keith Dickson, had always dreamt of figure skating. But if not for a traumatic car accident, some unconventional medical advice, and the death of her husband, the two may never have come to be.

“I used to love watching skating, but I was always so focused on my gymnastics, and I couldn’t possibly do both,” Straub said.

“I’d often watch skaters and think – I want to do that one day.”

A horrific car accident in 1997 left Straub in a coma. She had broken her foot in three places, and upon waking was told she may never walk again – let alone skate. For the next three years she battled short term memory loss.

“They thought I was going to die because of my head injuries, but I worked so hard to try and get myself back to normal again,” said Straub.

“A specialist eventually said ice skating would be good because it would strengthen my ankles, and so I took it up.”

After she recovered from her accident, Straub began skating as a 40-year-old with her dance partner, whom she married shortly afterwards. The two spent years skating together and competing in adult competitions across the world.

In 2007, Straub and her husband Tibi travelled to Oberstdorf, Germany, for the International Adult Figure Skating Competition – one of the largest annual competitions in the world.

It was there the couple met fellow figure skater Keith Dickson from Dunedin, New Zealand.

“We noticed someone from New Zealand who we’d never met before, and then my husband and Keith started talking to each other; I remember him.”

Unfortunately, her husband died suddenly a few months later and Straub doubted she would ever skate again.

“I was so bewildered and couldn’t cope, and everybody tried to get me back on track,” she said.

“I had so much encouragement, and finally I did go back – that was five years ago now.”

“I started solo free-skating, I’d never done it before, and I realised how much I wanted to skate with somebody again; I really missed it.”

A few years later, 69-year-old Dickson was looking for a new skating partner, and decided to make contact with Straub.

“I contacted her and she said she wanted to come to the New Zealand Masters in Dunedin, and I said she could come stay with me,” Dickson said.

“I really liked her, and I think she really liked me, and a year later she asked me if I’d be her partner.”

“Everyone really encouraged me to ask him,” Straub said.

“I was a bit nervous, but when he came over to Australia to visit I asked him, and he said yes! So that’s how we got started together, and we’ve been together ever since.”

The pair’s first competition was in the 2014 skating competition in Germany, at which there were 528 skaters representing 28 countries.

“We skated to Titanic,” Dickson said.

“I dressed up as Jack and Sharon dressed up as Rose; we danced to ‘My Heart Will Go On’, and at the end I picked her up and she threw her arms out to the side, just like in the movie.”

“We only had six months to put a program together for the competition, and while all the other pairs were married and had skated together for years and years, Sharon and I were going back and forth from Australia to New Zealand, but we did really well.”

Dickson says he and Straub are such a great team because they complement one another and reflect each other’s talents, and their different athletic backgrounds have added to their skills as figure skaters.

“I play ice hockey very seriously, I’m the oldest ice hockey player in New Zealand,” said Dickson, who has participated in the New Zealand Masters Games in hockey since 1992.

“I’ve also got twenty-eight years of karate fighting, but I like figure skating because of the balance – it feels like you’re free.”

“Sharon was on the Olympic team representing Australia, and so we work well together, we’re a good mix.”

The couple are skating together at this year’s Australian Masters Games, with 2015 the first year figure skating has been included as a Games sport.

“We don’t mind if we don’t win, we’re out there to be remembered,” Dickson says.

“We skated once to Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’, only I was dressed up as Barbie and Sharon was Ken – she lifted me! I think we came last, but who cares – people are still talking about us!”

The 15th Australian Masters Games figure skating competition continues tomorrow at Ice Arena, 23 James Congdon Drive, Adelaide.

Highlights and points of interest for Saturday 10 October:

  • SPECIAL EVENT: Medal presentation with Annabel Digrance MP, State Member for Elder

1:45pm @ Pasadena Sports Centre, Pasadena High School, Corner Daws & Goodwood Roads, Pasadena

The State Member for Elder will present medals of all colour to the many successful basketball teams of the 15th Australian Masters Games.

  • SPECIAL EVENT: Medal presentation with Rachel Sanderson MP, State Member for Adelaide

Beach volleyball – 4:30-5:15pm @ Adelaide City Beach, 213 Pirie Street, Adelaide

Dragon boat – 5:30-6pm @ Torrens River, Pinky Flat, War Memorial Drive, Adelaide

The Shadow Minister for Volunteers will present medals to successful participants in beach volleyball and dragon boating.

  • Annette Wilson – 51 years old, powerlifting

From 9:30am @ Games Village – Adelaide Convention Centre, North Terrace, Adelaide

A 51-year-old power-lifter from New South Wales who is coached by her son with Tourette’s Syndrome.

  • Closing Ceremony

7pm @ Airbnb Games Village, Adelaide Convention Centre, North Terrace

Featuring the volunteer appreciation, official close to the 15th Australian Masters Games, flag handover to the 2017 host North-West Tasmania, and the Australian INXS Show to the 15th Australian Masters Games will say goodbye to Adelaide with all the colour and fun from the past eight days.

  • FINAL DAY – Athletics, Baseball, Basketball, Dragon Boat, Figure Skating, Football (Soccer), Gymnastics, Hockey, Mountain Bike – Cross Country, Pool Lifesaving, Powerlifting, Rowing, Softball, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Touch Football, Volleyball - Beach

It’s the final day of competition in seventeen sports, and you don’t want to miss out. Gold medals and bragging rights will be up for grabs, but participants will need to be at their very best to etch their name in Australian Masters Games history.

  • FIRST DAY – Gymnastics, Pool Lifesaving, Powerlifting, Taekwondo, Mountain Bike (Cross Country)

The last day of the Games sees five sports kick off competition, with gold medals the just desserts when the final whistle blows.

  • OLDEST ENTRANTS IN ACTION –

Rowing – Ted James – 88 years old

9:15am @ Alex Ramsay Regatta Course, Military Road, West Lakes

Table Tennis – Phillip Warwick – 85 years old

9:30am, 10:00am, 3:30pm @ Newton Sports Complex, Corner Strandbroke Road & Whites Lane, Newton

Gymnastics – Alexander Beernink – 71 years old

From 1:30pm @ Marion Leisure & Fitness Centre, Oaklands Road, Morphettville

Mountain Bike – Cross Country – Morris Allen – 68 years old

1:00pm, 3:00pm(Presentations) @ Cross Country @ Craigburn Park, MTB Park, Craigburn Road, Craigburn

Pool Lifesaving – Barbara Pearce – 78 years old

From 9:00am @ SA Aquatic & Leisure Centre, 443 Morphett Road, Oaklands Park

Powerlifting – John Dellow – 74 years old

@ Games Village – Adelaide Convention Centre, North Terrace, Adelaide

Taekwondo – Russell Wood – 74 years old

From 9:30am @ Games Village – Adelaide Convention Centre, North Terrace, Adelaide

The 15th Australian Masters Games are underway in Adelaide, October 3-10, featuring more than 10,000 participants from across Australia and around the world.

The Australian Masters Games is proudly sponsored by the South Australian Tourism Commission through Events South Australia.

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