FROM the age of 12, Sara Carrigan always dreamt of representing her country in the iconic green and gold, taking home a gold medal at the Olympics.

While she was too young to know then what her sport of choice would be, to see out her ambitious life goal, the little girl from Gunnedah, Tamworth, didn’t give up on her dream.

Though she would ride her ‘red rocket’ push bike around on the farm, it wasn’t until the age of 15 – after moving to the Gold Coast – that she was introduced to road cycling as a sport, through a High School Sports Talent Search.

From the outset, road cycling was something she loved, so following a natural progression; she soon pumped the pedal on her career as an elite athlete, making the first Australian team at just 17 years of age.

Fast-forward seven years, Sara Carrigan’s life-long dream of winning gold came true, as she took out the top spot in the 130km Road Race at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games – a surreal and memorable moment for the then 24 year old.

“When I crossed that finish line, I experienced a burst of emotions – it was a mix of disbelief and happiness and once that settled, a quiet realisation that I was now an Olympic champion,” Carrigan said.

“It is an amazing feeling knowing you have achieved your life dream.”

With a dedicated training program that involved riding between 600 to 800km a week – stretching to 1,000km on select weeks – Sara’s success over the years as a professional cyclist saw her also become a Commonwealth Games medallist, two-time national champion, World Cup winner, 12-time Australian championship medallist as well as Queensland and Australian Female Road Cyclist of the Year on numerous occasions.

Among the myriad of medals won, from her time spent representing Australia at countless sporting events, including eight World Championships, two Olympic Games and two Commonwealth Games, Sara was awarded the coveted Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in 2005 for her outstanding sporting achievements.

But when a tragic accident occurred ahead of a road race in Germany later that year – that saw members of her Australian cycling team hit and one killed by a motorist, while training – Sara’s ability to perform wavered.

“Even though I wasn’t on the ride with them, the news of this had affected me mentally,” she said.

“Prior to this accident, cycling came so naturally to me – I was like a duck in water, but after this happened, I felt paralysed.

“I still had to race a few days later, and found I couldn’t do anything properly. At the time I didn’t know what was going on, it wasn’t until later – after working through it – that I realised it was fear.”

Taking the next year off, Sara returned to racing, to represent her country on home soil at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

“I didn’t want to miss the chance to race in my home country, so I went there and gave it my best, but I wasn’t the same.”

For the next two years, Sara continued racing, however she admits she never quite got back to level she had been at.

With this in the back of her mind, together with losing the – what she calls ‘1 per cent of mongrel’ – in her, driving her to compete to the fullest, three months after the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, Sara decided to hang up her helmet on her racing career.

“It was a difficult decision to make, I would cry every time I thought about it, but I knew it was time.”

Always wanting to become a teacher – having started her studies in education in 1999, before switching to business to suit with her lengthy travelling schedule – and inspired to get into road safety, following her own personal struggles on the bike, Sara retired from professional cycling in December 2008 and by February 2009, with a Level One UCI/CA Coach Accreditation behind her, had opened her own cycling school.

“What had happened in Germany helped me to understand others’ fear of riding,” Carrigan said.

“This was my inspiration for getting into road safety and to teach others. When I first started cycling on the Gold Coast, you knew everyone out on the road – that was how little cyclists there were at the time.

“Now there are plenty. I would go away for eight to nine months a year, and when I would come back there would be more and more people out riding, however many of these would have negative first experiences.”

Wanting to help others experience the same joys of riding she had, Sara’s Sara Carrigan Cycling school assists riders of all levels, from kids to adults; from the first pedal stroke to elite athletes.

“Cycling for me is a way of life – I have had so many learning experiences from it, which has seen me grow so much as a person,” she said.

“I love the freedom, adventure and exploration of cycling and it’s so fulfilling to now be apart of other people’s journey.

“People would come to the school and would be quite fearful at first, but once they had lessons it opened the flood gates of confidence. The simple act of riding a bike has helped so many people.”

Backed by a team of instructors, one being her husband Stevo, Sara’s passion for cycling only continued to grow as she made the transition from professional athlete to coach, taking up to three sessions a day.

“Being a coach is great as I am still involved in what I love, but with a different focus,” she said.

And though she has had to shift her focus from cycling in recent years, as she enjoys the early stages of motherhood – with her three year old daughter Bobbi and one year old son Jarley, both of whom follow in their mother’s footsteps, scooting around the household on their plastic bikes – her end goal is to continue improving road safety education for cyclists and motorists alike.

“There is still a lot to do in this space, but I’m doing my little bit,” she said.

“A lot of new cyclists want to do the right thing on the roads, but they don’t know how. My school helps to educate new riders, giving them the skills they need to ride safer and respect motorists.

“But it’s a two way street, and road rage from motorists is normally caused by fear, as the driver doesn’t really know or understand what the cyclist is doing.

“We’ve held educational workshops for drivers before, getting them on the bike, to put the shoe on the other foot and help them see why cyclists do certain things – which they have found incredibly eye-opening.


“I would love to see more of these rolled out, and licensing change to have a great focus on cyclist safety, to make it a safer place on the road for both cyclists and motorists.”

Recently named co-mayor of the Athlete’s Village at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Sara has also been heavily involved in special sporting events as well as committees, being an executive board member of the QLD Olympic Council as well as an active travel ambassador for the Gold Coast City Council.

And while she has already enjoyed a successful life – so much so, there is a street named Sara Carrigan Crt, in her honour – she looks forward to the next leg of the ride.

For more information,

For media information, interviews or photos please contact Sarah Matulin at Ruby Communications on (07) 3216 0400 or email



The 16th annual SWELL Sculpture Festival, held from September 14 to 23, is an opportunity for art lovers, visitors, locals and families to engage with art in an iconic coastal setting.

Spanning more than 1km along the foreshore, the free family-friendly exhibition will transform Currumbin Beach into a temporary exhibition of specially curated one-off works of art on a larger scale.

With this year’s focus on placing the ‘artist as the hero’, SWELL will feature captivating and topical works from 45 local, national and international artists, with works created at a variety of scale to dominate and integrate with the landscape across 10 days. 

Curated to challenge visitors and provoke thoughtful discussions among its audience, the selected pieces for this year’s showcase are set to inspire through scale and diversity.

The largest of the featured works is a detailed and interactive piece by award-winning Australian artist and former SWELL exhibitor Clayton Blake, which – once installed – will stand eight meters tall.

Fusing elements of architecture and sculpture, the piece, titled Trafficking, presents an ‘exploration of the global impact of Human Trafficking’, using 1000 reflective traffic cones.

Incorporating various mediums and textiles, South Australian artist Karl Meyer is set to create a visually engaging piece titled Foci using corrugated steel, while Melbourne-based artist Ryoko Kose turns to crochet hemp yarn to construct her intricately woven yet free-flowing and whimsical installation Just Keep Going.

SWELL’s open-air exhibition will also welcome works from two international artists, with Sweden’s Karl Chilcott tackling the limits of nature through his 1500kg gold coated Ngara Tree, and Germany’s Thomas Reifferscheid presenting Blade – a tactile silhouette-style sculpture carved entirely from black granite.

Designed to present a double meaning, the curved sculpture can be viewed as a blade of grass standing in the wind, representing the strength of nature and her resources, or as a blade of a sword – a deadly weapon, representative of the violation of the resources nature has given us.

With the environment undoubtedly playing an underlying theme to most of the featured works, emerging artist Joanne Elliot’s War of the Worlds – a steel and epoxy resin piece is inspired by the magically surreal, alien-like and microscopic life-forms that exist in our oceans, Phytoplankton. Queensland artist Cate Collopy’s Fantastic Plastic follows suit with a land, sea and air penetrator made from reused plastic material to both raise questions around just how much our behaviour as humans, is impacting our natural surrounds.

SWELL’s Creative Director Ruth Della said the much-loved exhibition had become a cultural pillar for the Gold Coast and an outdoor art experience one could look forward to each year.

“For over 15 years, artists have captured people’s imaginations as they share in their storytelling or inform on issues that are close to their heart. The drawcard for people to return to SWELL each year is to experience an ever-changing display of sculpture and program of events,” Ms Della said.

“This year we have curated the exhibition based on quality works to inspire and provoke. We have looked conceptually at what will challenge and inspire visitors and what will connect the audience to the artists’ mind's eye."

“There will be artworks to command attention and conversely, there will be intimate works to intrigue. It is this diversity in the types of works selected for the exhibition where visitors can enjoy a breadth of sensory experiences all the while enjoying time with friends and family at the beach.”

Boasting a strong Gold Coast contingent of artists, visitors will be able to enjoy works that reflect on the past days of the Gold Coast. Local emerging artist Kannitha Ly tells the history of the local beach culture with her interactive installation Sandy Sundays, a textile piece inspired by bathing boxes, which perfectly captures a lazy day by the beach.

Following in suit of the nostalgic, Greg Quinton’s Jump – a 3mt high swing – will prompt viewers to think about their childhood, as they look on at the swing frozen at the height of its arc. While Phillip Piperides’ beautiful bronzed pieces, titled Facing East and Currumbin Rock - Boy stands atop each iconic headland rock. Kirsten Baade’s Everted Reflections – a large scale kinetic kaleidoscope is an engaging visual that interacts and intertwines with the surrounding coastal landscape. 

Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch said SWELL had secured its place as a highly-anticipated and much-loved event in Queensland and is one of the largest free outdoor art exhibitions in the state.

“The festival importantly shines the spotlight on and celebrates our state’s professional and emerging artists, this year featuring nine artists from the Gold Coast and a further 24 from across the state, in addition to attracting national and international artists.

"The Queensland Government, through Arts Queensland and Tourism and Events Queensland, proudly supports the SWELL Sculpture Festival.

“This vibrant arts event continues to deliver significant economic benefits for the state through cultural tourism, by attracting more than 275,000 visitors to the Currumbin foreshore each year,” Minister Enoch said.

Artists will vie for the $15,000 Neumann Family SWELL Sculpture Award. SWELL is privileged to welcome local art identity Rebecca Ross Artistic Director the Walls Arts Space to the task of judging. Visitors will have the opportunity to vote for their favourite sculpture with a People’s Choice Award and Kids’ Choice Award. There will also be awards presented for an Emerging Artist Award, Environmental Awareness Award and Artist Peer Award.

Visitors to this year’s SWELL will also be able to enjoy a multi-faceted creative environment, with the event program featuring captivated guided twilight walks, artists talks, a school-based program and a host of engaging family-friendly workshops including a Life Drawing workshop with artist Rebecca Cunningham and a Modeling From Life masterclass with Phillip Piperides.

Not isolated to the southern end of the Coast, SWELL Sculpture Festival will literally be blown to new proportions extending to Helensvale with Northerly Swell. Local artist Dion Parker will inflate imaginations with his upscaled inflatable dog Lil’ Dusty at the Helensvale Library and Cultural Centre from August 29 to September 23.

SWELL invites the local community to kick off their shoes and immerse themselves in this internationally acclaimed cultural attraction and experience the atmosphere that continues to captivate art enthusiasts, families, beach lovers and the like.

For more information, please visit

SWELL Sculpture Festival

Date: September 14-23, 2018

Location: Pacific Parade, Currumbin Beach, Gold Coast

Cost: FREE

Northerly SWELL

Date: August 29 to September 23

Location: Helensvale Library and Cultural Centre, Helensvale

Cost: FREE

SWELL Sculpture Festival is a not for profit arts organisation.

SWELL Sculpture Festival is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland and Tourism and Events Queensland as a part of the vibrant calendar of events on offer throughout the State.  

For more media information, please contact Karleigh Pearson at Ruby Communications on (07) 5532 3808 or email



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