by CRAIG ROSS
Champion Sunshine Coast water skier Maggie Storey is approaching 78 years of age but is not letting that stop her from indulging her love of the high-speed sport.
A multiple record holder, national champion and world silver medallist, Maggie is a pioneer of women’s competitive water skiing in Australia, helping achieve equality for female skiers in what was once a male-dominated sport.
After claiming the women’s over-35s bronze medal aged 45 in 1990, Maggie has collected Australian women’s championships against younger opponents in every age division since, including the over-75 title last year. She still holds national records in the women’s over-55 jump and over-70 and over-75 slalom categories.
Understandably proud of what she has achieved on the national stage, Maggie says competing at the world championships in Florida in 2014 remains her career highlight. At the age of 70, Maggie not only gained selection for the Australian over-35s team for the championships, she also secured the silver medal in the slalom event.
“It took me 70 years to get my Australian green and gold, so my jacket has pride of place at home,” Maggie says.
“I was actually No.1 in the world for four days and I was the No.1 seed (but) it was still good to get the silver.”
Born in England, Maggie’s love affair with water skiing began while living in South Australia in 1974 during an outing with her family – late first husband David Hill and sons Simon and Andrew – to the national championships at Lake Patawalonga in Glenelg.
Soon after, the four were members of the South Australia Water Ski Association and quickly made their mark on the sport with Maggie qualifying for her first national championships in 1979, David establishing himself as a leading ski boat driver and Andrew and Simon each becoming national champion skiers.
Simon, who was Maggie’s coach for much of her career, also turned professional and established himself as a world top 10 competitor.
However, Maggie’s first national titles did not go to plan. Arriving at Lake Talbot in Narrandera, NSW, only to be told that there were not enough female competitors for the event to go ahead, Maggie was spurred to push for greater opportunities for women’s skiers of all ages.
“At that stage there was nowhere for me to go in national competition because I had to ski against kids the same age as my sons,” she says.
“I thought that wasn’t fair because the men had age division competitions, and I thought I’d do something about it. I walked around with a handwritten petition when the nationals were again held at Patawalonga in 1980 and I got more than 300 signatures.”
Maggie finally lined up for national titles competition at Lake Barrington in Tasmania in 1989, finishing midfield in a competition dominated by teenagers. However, her rewards for pressuring the national sporting body for change came when she captured her bronze over-35s medal the following year in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria.
Since then, Maggie has gone on to ‘open’ each higher age division by being the eldest female competitor in the field. That same determined streak that enabled her to successfully campaign for change to the competition structure has enabled her to stay on top of her game for such a long period, even after losing David and moving to the Gold Coast in 2001.
“I really enjoy it,” she says. “To me, it was a challenge to line up against someone the same age as my grandkids. They didn’t want to get beaten by a grandmother – but they very often did!”
Maggie says the impact of Covid and the resulting disruption to events on the national circuit over the past two years has given her time to reflect on her career and has prompted her to consider easing back on competitive water skiing.
“It is disappointing because a fair bit of money, time and effort goes into training and then you have the events you’re training for being cancelled,” Maggie says.
“Now that I look back over the last few years, I am realising that I’ve achieved every goal that I set for myself. Which isn’t to say that I’ve totally finished, but probably skiing socially is what will take me further on.”
Maggie moved to the Sunshine Coast six years ago with her second husband Nev Storey, who she met in 2007, describing him as a beautiful man who has been 100 per cent supportive of her water-skiing career.
She has competed in recent years as a member of Coolum Beach’s Oz Ski Resort, which is also her sponsor, and praised the club and its coaching director Emma Habermann (nee Sheers) for helping her sustain her ground-breaking performances.
“Emma has been very supportive of me, especially over the past six years,” Maggie says. “I’ve known Emma since she was 10 or 12 and she is a former world champion and very highly qualified coach.”
Maggie’s experiences in seeking greater opportunity for female water skiers was recently the topic of her presentation to the Maroochydore VIEW Club, of which she is a member, to commemorate International Women’s Day and its 2022 theme Breaking the Bias.
“To me, the club is about friendships and supporting a worthwhile charity,” Maggie says.
The Maroochydore VIEW Club is a volunteer organisation that provides the opportunity for women to meet regularly, form friendships and help disadvantaged Australian children by supporting the work of children’s charity The Smith Family.
The club meets on the fourth Friday of each month at 11am for an 11.30am start at the Maroochy Surf Club. For more information phone Maggie Taubman on 0418 793 906, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the VIEW website at view.org.au.