Robbie McEwen AM always strove to “get better” during his stellar cycling career. And if he couldn’t do that, he was satisfied that his hard work ensured he wasn’t getting any worse.
One of six 2020 inductees into the Queensland Sport Hall of Fame, McEwen is one of just eight riders to win the Tour de France green jersey – awarded to the race’s best sprinter – more than twice and the only one of the eight from the southern hemisphere.
“There’s a lot of people with talent, but I think the key is determination and perseverance because you get knocked down a lot, you lose more than you win, and it’s about being able to come back from any setbacks and keep moving forward,” Brisbane-born, Gold Coast-based McEwen said.
“It’s about never stopping learning about your own sport and never stop trying to improve on every little aspect of it.
“That was what I always tried to do – just always try to keep getting better.
“You’re obviously not going to always keep getting better, but if you’re trying to, you can at least stay where you are.
“There’s that old cliche … it’s one thing getting to the top, it’s even harder staying there.”
In cycling’s most famous race, McEwen “stayed there”, riding the TDF 12 times for 12 individual stage wins and green jersey triumphs in 2002, 2004 and 2006.
“If I had to pick one performance as a highlight it would be winning in the green jersey on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, my first green jersey,” he said.
“For a sprinter, that’s the holy grail.
“It’s one thing getting to Paris, but winning on the Champs-Élysées and getting it in the green jersey, for me, it couldn’t get any bigger or better than that.
“That’s one I’m super proud of. That was the ultimate. I had some big moments after that, but that’s the one that tops the rest.”
Other achievements the BMX champion-turned-road cyclist accomplished included a 2002 world championship road race silver medal and representing Australia at the 1996, 2000 and 2004 Olympics.
“During your sporting career you’re not thinking of things like hall of fames, but post career, eight-and-a-half years after retiring, it’s a really huge honour to be inducted into the Queensland sporting hall of fame,” said McEwen, already in the Sport Australia and Cycling Australia hall of fames.
“This really nice recognition of my career and also for everyone else that’s been involved in my career and helped get me to where I got in this sport.”
Now 48, McEwen remains involved with the sport by organising a mass participation recreational ride on the Gold Coast and training juniors.
Among his messages to young riders is to have fun and never give up.
“It’s so easy to get down and get discouraged, but just back yourself and keep working hard,” McEwen said.
The other 2020 Queensland Sport Hall of Fame inductees are Roy Fowler (Paralympics), Barry Dancer (hockey), Pam O’Neill (horse racing), Dick Marks (rugby union) and Brooke Wilkins (softball).
Fowler, a professional boxer at 14, a drover during the Great Depression, a gunner in the Australian Army and a professional wrestler, was 42 in 1963 when he suffered a brain haemorrhage that left him a quadriplegic.
But a year later, he won three Paralympic gold medals in swimming and a silver in archery.
Overall, Fowler won 10 Paralympic medals, including three more gold medals – in lawn bowls.
He won more than 100 medals in national and international competition before his death in 2002, aged 82.
Ipswich product Dancer coached the Kookaburras, Australia’s men’s hockey team, to their first Olympic gold medal in 2004, two Commonwealth Games gold medals, two Champions Trophy triumphs and Olympic bronze in 2008.
O’Neill had racing in her blood but had to wait until she was 34 to be granted a jockey’s licence in May, 1979 after a long struggle for women to be accepted as hoops.
In her maiden meet against men, she produced a winning treble – a world record
for any first-time jockey.
Marks played 51 matches for the Wallabies, captained them in 1967 and was also Queensland’s skipper in the 1960s.
He was appointed inaugural national coaching director in 1974 and remained in the role until 1995.
Pitcher Wilkins represented Australia 197 times and, from 1994 to 2004, played at three world championships and three Olympic Games for a haul of two silver and three bronze medals.
Wilkins was inducted into softball’s international hall of fame in 2013.