Flat White

Sasha Zhoya, watch out. There’s karma on the athletics field, too

16 January 2020

8:05 PM

16 January 2020

8:05 PM

It is never too late for a New Year resolution and I hope Australia soon nails this one #Australiasmartenup! 

Pulling the heritage card when Australian taxpayers have been footing your bill is a bit rich. 

Star young athlete Sasha Zhoya, who was born and has been raised in Perth, Western Australia (so he is Australian already), has turned his back and chosen to represent France on the world stage. 

The 17year old is considered one of the best young athletes in the world and no-one is saying he isn’t. He won the under-18 110-metre hurdles at the 2019 Australian national athletics championships and set a new Australian record. He also claimed the under-20 200m and pole vault. 

I’m proud of anyone who maximises their talent, but I am not proud of people who don’t seem to have a moral compass. 

At 17, Zhoya may not be a legal adult but he and his family surely ought to know about having a conscience. It is a global concept and one of the oldest on Earth.  

Having defected to France, I think the fairest thing would be for Zhoya to pay back the last three years of his training scholarship at the West Australian Institute of Sport. Does it not even enter his head or that of his family, to do the right thing? 

Most of us have other heritage aside from being Australian, but there is a moral obligation here. 

Does Zhoya think about all those people working a myriad of jobs from factories to farms and paying their tax in Australia to help him achieve his dream? 

We all have dreams. Of course, talent also helps but being able to enhance that talent when someone else is footing the bill is a hell of a lot easier. In this case, the people footing the bill have been you and me -– the Australian taxpayers. 

How many people dream of opening the batting for Australia? Or become the next Cathy Freeman, Ian Thorpe or Ash Barty? If someone had the chance to train all day every day without having to worry about too much else, I reckon they would at least be threequarters of the way there to achieving it! 

Sasha Zhoya’s father is Zimbabwean and his mother is French. The West Australian says his mother’s whole family lives in France and from a young age he regularly went to France to visit and has made friends there. How quaint. No one is begrudging him his luck at being able to travel to France so regularly, given that he is only 17. Travel is a wonderful experience regardless of age. 

But I wonder if he had trained at the French equivalent of the West Australian Institute of Sport (WAIS), what the reaction of the French would be if he chose to defect to Australia? 

In such a politically correct world, WAIS’s reaction that the organisation is disappointed with Zhoya’s decision but wished him luck has allowed most normal Aussies to read between the lines. 

WAIS is undoubtedly biting its tongue and really wants to say “Thanks a lot mate. All the WAIS staff have supported and encouraged you to reach and achieve your goals and now it’s Bon Voyage to Australia?” 

Last year, Zhoya revealed that he would decide which country he would represent at the 2020 World Junior Championship. 

Gee whizz. Decisions, decisions.  

Sasha Zhoya has been given everything in Australia and the most elite training possible. 

The French athletics federation has swooped in with the carrot of a Paris Olympics in 2024. 

I wonder what the reaction would be have been if the Australian Athletics Federation had gone on a massive recruiting drive and taken most of France’s top young athletes? 

Sasha Zhoya is not the only Australian born athlete to have done something like this. However, let’s get back to the real essence and conscience of a person. 

Soccer player Josip Simunic was born in Canberra to parents who had fled to Australia from the war-torn former Yugoslavia. He was a product of the now-defunct Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Canberra and was so good that in 1996 he was selected as Australia’s Youth Player of the Year in the old NSL.  Soon after, he also chose to snub Australia and instead decided to represent Croatia at an international level and went on to play more than 100 international matches.  

His decision was so devastating to Australian football that it marked a watershed moment where the CoE forced future abdicating internationals to pay the Football Federation Australia for their academy tuition.  But that didn’t stop others from choosing the same path, until the CoE eventually closed in 2017.  

Australia is about creating and seizing the opportunities afforded to you and making the most of the chance to succeed. 

Is it too much for us to ask that in return the recipients of our generosity are proud enough to fly the Aussie flag as they compete around the world?  

Many Australians have another heritage – it is what makes our nation great. So why does doing the right thing seem lost on so many? 

Perhaps Zhoya should go and Google the most infamous match Simunic ever played in – the 2006 World Cup match against Australia where he was eventually sent off and the Aussies pulled off a miraculous draw to move into the next round at the expense of Simunic’s new nation. Karma has a way with these things. Let’s see what might happen at Paris 2024.  

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