PROUD is an understatement for Lachlan Sharp's parents Richard and Tania, who are bursting with pride on their son's selection for the Summer Olympics.
And while Sharp may reside in Western Australia he will always call Lithgow home.
In the lead up to his Olympic debut, the Lithgow Mercury reached out to Sharp's nearest and dearest to get an insight on what ultimately led this young, smalltown kid to becoming an elite athlete who plays hockey on an international level.
Welcome to Sharp's road to Tokyo.
Where it all began
It's safe to say Sharp comes from good pedigree with parents who had a knack for hockey back in their day and the whole family being involved with Zig Zag Hockey Club
"Hockey is very much a thing in our family," Richard said.
"Tania was a very good player from a very young age, she was part of the Mighty Mites at Zig Zag Public School and played state hockey all through juniors and then into seniors," he said.
"Richard was a very good hockey player in his day as well I can't take all the credit," Tania responded.
Sharp's older brother Zach and sister Amie are also exceptional players and represented at state junior levels.
Following in the footsteps of his siblings, Sharp was bound to pick up a hockey stick at a very young age.
"We got Amie and Zach into hockey really early because we were both playing and Tania would spend hours out in the yard with them before they went to school just playing," Richard said.
"So they developed a really good technique early on and then of course Lachi just naturally went in and started to pick it up.
"He'd play inside, he'd grab a little stick and a rubber ball and play in the hallway or go out in the sun room, and commentate to himself."
Richard said his son was identified early on as a very good player and he was lucky enough to coach him over the years.
"I coached the school kids and Zig Zag School won the championships a couple of times and were runners up in that as well, Zach and Lachi were the main stage in that side for a couple of years," he said.
Sharp was also known to receive a few sporting awards when he was a young fella.
"I think the pinnacle of his primary school career was winning the Western Region Up and Coming sportsperson which was a really good achievement," he said.
Sharp then moved onto high school at Lithgow High where he received the Sporting Blue award in year 11 and 12 and also a major Sporting Award in year 12.
"He was also an extremely good cricketer and played at a high junior representative level. We sort of got pushed into a corner in which way he wanted to go - cricket or hockey," Richard said.
"We had a conversation about it and obviously he went with hockey."
Growing as a player
Sharp's parents said he had a few setbacks when he was younger but he never gave up.
"He was a good player but the other kids started to get bigger and quicker so he was sort of a bit behind them, he suffered selection wise for awhile because of that," Richard said.
"I think he started to grow from a hockey point of view when we went down to Sydney."
During his time playing state hockey Sharp formed connections which led him to joining Ryde Hockey Club.
"Both Zach and Lachi went down there when they were only 15 and started playing in the Metro League which is the high tier of junior hockey in Sydney," Richard said.
They played state hockey each year until one time neither Zach or Lachi were picked in the side their dad was coaching.
"Zach drifted away he had enough and moved on and Lachi kept at it, he stuck it out and gave it a crack and he eventually moved into seniors," Richard said.
Sharp moved through to U18s and began to motor on and was eventually recognised by former Kookaburras midfielder David Guest who was the NSW Institute of Sport coach at the time.
"When Lachi was 17 he was identified by David in a first grade game against St George in Sydney, he was invited to the NSWIS squad and really started to take off with some high-quality coaching and physical conditioning," Richard said.
Sharp began to build his strength and speed and one thing led to another.
"The beauty of Lachi's game is that he's really good technically and that sets him apart from a lot of other people," Richard said.
He said growing up with the game has allowed Sharp to understand it, which sets him apart at an international level.
"He's got knowledge of the game and knows where to be and when to be there, his positioning and ability to read the game are really outstanding," he said.
Richard also said his son was incredibly quick which he noticed when he was fortunate to play a premier league game with him just as he was taking off on the international scene.
"Zach and I got to play a game with him up in Bathurst and Lachi was just at another level because he had that exposure, he was so quick no one could get anywhere near him.
"I just thought to myself I was really wrapped to have been able to play that game with him."
Dedication does the trick
Prior to his green and gold debut Sharp had put in the hard yards, juggling his apprenticeship at Springvale Coal Mine and hockey training in Sydney.
"He use to leave Springvale and I'd meet him at the Information Centre on his way down and I'd give him lunch to eat while driving down to Sydney," Tania said.
Sharp would be exhausted from working, followed by a round trip for training, getting home late and up early again for work the next day.
"Even in his junior years we would travel down to Sydney with both boys after school every Friday for a night game then back up again on Saturday for their Zig Zag games.
"Lachi had been travelling back and forth for quite a few years and it wasn't an easy road, it's been hard work but he was dedicated to get where he is today," Tania said.
Green and gold
Sharp first put on the green and gold in 2016 when he played at the Junior World Cup.
Following on from that he was picked up in the development squad and went on a tour of Europe.
He made his international senior debut with the Kookaburras in India in December 2017 and also played in the FIH Pro League in recent years.
"When he made his debut in December, in January they pick a squad for the upcoming year so he was named in that squad," Richard said.
Sharp performed at the Commonwealth Games when he was 20 years-old, bringing home gold in 2018.
Tania said Sharp made the move to Perth early in 2018 and has been there ever since.
"It was a happy time but also a sad time.
"I was a mess at the airport the day he left, but he was alright he was determined to do it and on the plane he got," she said.
She said she misses him and now with COVID-19 it was hard to see him regularly, but they flew over when they could.
"We not long ago got back from Perth and it was nice to see him just before he took off for Darwin for acclimatisation training to prepare them for the temperature and humidity before heading to Tokyo," she said.
Finding out about Tokyo
It's been a dream of Sharp's for as long as he can remember to represent Australia at the Olympics.
When he was seven-years-old he wrote a letter to his idol Brent Livermore which read:
"To Brent, my name is Lachlan Sharp. I am 7 years-old and I play for Zig Zag Hockey Club. Next year I am going to play under 11s. If I practice hard I hope one day I will be as good as you, Good luck in Athens and I hope you win. P.S Could you please send me an autograph."
It's ironic as Brent became his NSWIS coach for many years in Sydney and little did Sharp know that seventeen years later he'd be announcing his Olympic selection to his family.
Richard found out first through a phone call at work and was wrapped with the news.
"At that stage things were embargoed so we had to keep it to ourselves but we came home and it was a Friday so we had a few beers, some wine and celebrated among ourselves but we were over the moon," he said.
He said he was proud of his son that his dreams had become a reality.
"You know when you have a young fella that's had a goal in life and just looking back and seeing some of the stuff from when he was a junior like he use to talk about Jamie Dwyer aspiring to go to the Olympics and stuff like that, it's just fantastic," he said.
Tania said she always knew he had it in him and she was extremely proud.
"It's all very exciting, but it was hard not being able to be there and see him especially with the phone call and him saying he had made it.
"I just wanted to be there to give him a cuddle and all I could do was look at his face on the phone but it's still nice and I'm so proud," she said.
Richard said he never took Sharp's success for granted.
"We never pre-empt anything. Of course deep down I think he deserves to be selected," he said.
"We got armoured against not rejection, but non-selection through his younger years, so it's always a delight and a surprise when he gets picked for things.
"I was lucky enough to coach him through the years and devoted a lot of time to him with his hockey and now he's achieved this it's just really special."
"From what we have seen and heard he puts in the hard yakka," Tania said.
"It's still so surreal it's really exciting no words can describe it, it's just an amazing feeling, I feel like cheering it out to the world."
His parents said while it was an achievement in itself to get to the Olympics they were hopeful to see the Kookaburras bring home gold.
"It would be so nice if Lachi can bring home the gold, it'd be the icing on the cake," Tania said.
Olympics and COVID
Sharp was on the verge of making his Olympic debut in 2020 but due to COVID-19 the games were postponed.
"We were sort of thinking what's going to happen, but we are thrilled that he's finally getting his Olympic debut," Tania said.
Last year Richard and Tania had organised air fares and accommodation for Tokyo with a free cancellation option.
"We had a free cancellation booking just in case Lachi did go but we could cancel if he wasn't selected. We had to cancel anyways because Tokyo was postponed," Tania said.
This year things were more difficult for his family to be there in the crowd with a global pandemic going on.
"We definitely would love to be in Tokyo with him.
"We would have gone but they're charging around $1000 a night for accommodation and COVID thrown into the mix makes it difficult," Tania said.
Despite not being able to be there in person, Sharp's family have decked out their house in supportive colours and will be glued to the TV.
"Fortunately there's only an hour difference between us and Tokyo and given there's no spectators this year, we assume the TV will allow us to hone in on Lachi if we want to," Richard said.
He also said they had been lucky over the years to travel around Europe and India watching Sharp on the international scene.
"Before COVID hit we'd been doing a bit of travelling with him and we wouldn't have done it any other way."
Tania said people had asked their concerns of Sharp's visit to Tokyo during the pandemic but she was certain of his safety.
"The Australian Olympic Committee keep in contact with us and let us know how things are going so that makes us feel reassured," she said.
"He's vaccinated and he won't be able to do anything apart from play and stay within the Olympic Village, unfortunate for them but at least we know he won't be at risk and I think he will be safe."
What happens after Tokyo?
Arriving back from Tokyo, Sharp will go into required isolation either in the Northern Territory or Sydney.
"We won't find out until closer to him coming home," Tania said.
Once he's out of isolation, Sharp will return home to Perth where he will continue his studies and hockey.
"The Olympics set up the Kookaburras with a four year plan and generally after the games, players get an opportunity to go over to Europe and make some money," Richard said.
Sharp had initially picked up a contract with a Belgium club to play in their competition during our summer months, but due to losing their major sponsorship they pulled out, so he searched for a club in the Netherlands.
"He found Rotterdam who offered him a contract there as well," Richard said.
"But I think the COVID situation and all the uncertainty around it made his mind up for him for now."
"We'll get to see him at Christmas time which is nice," Tania said.
Thanks for the support
Sharp's parents wanted to thank the Lithgow community for their support behind their son.
"The support from Lithgow has been absolutely fantastic," Richard said.
"I went down to hockey on the weekend recently and everyone you run into asks how he's going, congratulates him and they're all so proud.
"Thank you to everyone from Lithgow for their support it means the world to us."
Richard and Tania encouraged Lithgow to keep supporting him all the way through.
"Get behind him and support him all the way, send as many messages as you'd like," they said.
Sharp left for Darwin on July 9 for acclimatisation training. He flew to Cairns on July 17 where he met with other Australian athletes for a chartered flight to Tokyo.
The Kookaburras will launch the Tokyo 2020 competition against hosts Japan on July 24 at Oi Hockey Stadium.
A special message to Lachi
We have gathered a series of good luck messages for our hometown hero Lachlan Sharp. You can check them out here.
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