Gayle Mayes

Almost 20 years to the day after she competed in the Barcelona Olympics, kayaker, Dr Gayle Mayes won Gold; this time at the 2012 World Outrigger Sprints in Canada where at the age of 56 she represented Australia in the Senior Master Women’s category. 

“I won four medals including two Gold – one of the best medal hauls of our 66-member Australian team,” Gayle said. 

But, the win was hard fought. She gave up competitive paddling at the elite level after the 1992 Olympics due to a severe back injury, which required surgery. At the time she believed she could never train or compete in paddle sports again, so she directed her sporting success into teaching and for the past two decades has coached and trained athletes at all levels while pursuing an academic career and completing a PhD at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Currently a researcher for the Sustainability Research Centre and a tourism lecturer at the university, Gayle slowly built up her paddling fitness by training with the Caloundra and Mooloolaba Outrigger Clubs, and drawing from the expertise of Dr Enid Ginn – her Olympic Sports Scientist and the trained staff at the university. She credits this dedication and determination to her time spent at St Aidan’s. 

“St Aidan’s laid the foundations and taught me the important lessons. The School introduced me to competition, cooperation, winning, losing (and everything in between), teamwork, resilience, planning, pride, leadership and fellowship and gave me the ability to take a knock or two and to get back up.” 

After graduating from university with a degree in Physical Education, Gayle worked as an outdoor pursuits/outdoor education leader. A year later she went back to study and completed a postgraduate degree in Outdoor Education. After a decade in this field, Gayle started her career as an elite athlete where she spent 10 years representing Australia in a variety of paddle sports including outrigging, dragon boats and marathon kayaking before reaching the peak of her sporting career in Barcelona. She wants St Aidan’s students to understand that school is the most valuable place for laying the foundation for their future – no matter what their goals. 

“Make your dreams a reality. No matter how crazy they seem or how high you aim, these dreams are what life is all about. I can honestly guarantee that dreams definitely can come true.”