YOU can throw about a few sporting clichés like "breaking barriers" and "defying the odds" when it comes to Ballarat women and big sporting stages this week.
It really does not do justice to Zoe Hives and Kathryn Mitchell sporting journeys.
Both have ultimately been about focus, incredible drive, unbelievably tough times and above all, playing smart to reach world sporting arenas.
They continue to reinforce a path for Ballarat girls to believe in.
Almost 10 years ago, The Courier sports team published a magazine-style series Play Like a Girl with a few young emerging Ballarat sports stars making a statement in their chosen fields.
Hives was 16 years old and preparing to step up her tennis with a new coach on the back of a winter break to focus on her studies. The Kingston junior had already made her first Australian Junior Fed Cup team and her Australian Open junior singles debut.
Hives played her first singles match in the Wimbledon main draw. This comes after a two-year struggle with chronic illness, specifically postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (better known as POTS) affecting blood flow when a person stands up.
Her opponent at the All England Club was Greek number five seed Maria Sakkari and, while bowing out in straight sets, reaching the world's most prestigious tennis tournament is no easy feat.
Until Hives, Ballarat juniors had only heard how it feels to step out in white at Wimbledon from long-time resident and 1968 Wimbledon singles finalist Judy Dalton, who relocated to town after a decorated career fighting for gender parity on and off the court.
Hives went to high school in Mount Clear. She grew up learning the game on our courts. And now she is a Wimbledon player.
Kathryn Mitchell, who hails from Casterton, arrived in Ballarat to to further her athletics in sprinting, long jump and her passion, javelin. She transferred to Ballarat High School for year 12 and quickly became incredibly homesick.
Mitchell, who celebrates her 40th birthday this week, has been named in her fifth Commonwealth Games team. This is a chance for Mitchell to defend her javelin gold medal, won on the Gold Coast in 2018.
That gold, from a Commonwealth and Australian record throw of 68.92 metres, came after finally "releasing the brakes" and taking pressure off her game physically and mentally.
Mitchell returned home and opened up on the dark side of her journey and the reasons that kept her flying.
Age is no barrier for Mitchell, who continues to unassumingly base her training in Ballarat.
WATCH Central Highlands live action by clicking on the image below.
We have incredibly rich female sporting eras in Ballarat. Think Ballarat Lady Miners in the mid-1990s through to national championships in 2005-06.
Think of our top netballers and the swell of support for Ballarat Pride climbing state league ranks.
This is another incredible era with Ballarat women staking their claim.
This is definitely a time to be inspired to play like our girls.
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