Former Olympian Melinda Gainsford-Taylor throws support behind Wagga’s potential synthetic track

Melinda Gainsford-Taylor in Wagga on Friday. Picture: Kieren L Tilly
Melinda Gainsford-Taylor in Wagga on Friday. Picture: Kieren L Tilly

Former Olympic sprinter Melinda Gainsford-Taylor has joined the chorus of voices within the Wagga athletics community calling for the city’s first synthetic track.

The Australian 200 metres record holder was in town for her speed clinics at the weekend and said a synthetic track would have tremendous benefits for the city and its competitors.

“It would just be so good for the young athletes here,” she said.

“The big thing with synthetic tracks is of course that they’re weatherproof and would allow everyone to train and compete even if it’s wet or raining.

“The other aspect is that it would give Wagga a real chance to host major competitions, whether they’re school meets or of another kind.

“You only need to look at Dubbo, which got a fabulous new track about three years ago, and they ended up attracting the NSW Country Championships along with some major school events.”

Wagga Little Athletics president Hamish Wheatley has confirmed his club is continuing to work with Kooringal-Wagga Athletics Club and Wagga City Council towards making the long-held dream a reality.

The two clubs plan to submit applications for a range of state and federal grants - including the $100 million Regional Sports Infrastructure Fund - in conjunction with council.

Wheatley said the concept had the unanimous support of the city’s councillors but added there was no set timeline for submitting the grant applications.

“We’re working closely with council to come up with a proposal to get a facility of IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) standards in Wagga,” Wheatley said.

“We’re hoping for a full synthetic track as well as lighting and a building or facility alongside side it.

“It would place a great emphasis on athletics in Wagga and allow us to attract major events.”

Wheatley said the push for a synthetic track had long been in the works, but last year’s extremely wet winter, which wreaked havoc with scheduled competition, had strengthened the club’s resolve to get a weatherproof facility built.

It’s an effort which is currently being mirrored at Football Wagga, which is also making a push for a synthetic pitch in the hope of avoiding winter washouts and attracting large-scale tournaments.