Lea Yanitsas - Water polo

Lea Yanitsas

Hi, my name is Lea Yanitsas (Nee Barta),

I play Waterpolo for the Australian Women’s Waterpolo Team the STINGERS, I recently competed at the Rio 2016 Olympics. After 14 years in the sport my dream came true and I had the opportunity to represent my country. This did not come without its challenges. My story is not a fairy tale, I have lost more times than I have won, but things like non selection, injury and being told I would never make it and wasn't good enough only made me push harder, grow stronger and force me to learn more about myself than I had ever known before.

I am passionate about Education because I believe it is the only path to a better world. To increase our knowledge and understanding and to provide this opportunity to all is so important to health around the planet. Dreams come in all shapes, sizes and fields and I believe all dreams are equally valuable. Teaching our children today to pursue their goals through education will lead to the worlds next greatest scientist, united nations ambassador, literary genius and/or musician. From Malala Yousafzai “One book, one pen, one child and one teacher can change the world.”


Sport:                                                   Waterpolo

Born:                                                    15/03/1989

Lives:                                                   Sydney, NSW                                     

Olympic Games:                                  2016 Rio

Olympic Results:                                  6th    


Primary School:                                   Manly West Primary School

High School:                                        Mackellar Girls High School

Favourite subject:                                PD/H/PE

Favourite memory from school:           Laughing through every class with my friends

University:                                            Bachelor Applied Science - Physiotherapy




Childhood ambition:                             Helping people and to be my best.

Favourite toy growing up:                    Razor scooter

Favourite gadget:                                Phone

Best holiday:                                        Thailand swimming with turtles

Band/music/song you love                   Florence and the Machine

Favourite food:                                    Muesli and yogurt

Earliest memory:                                 Hard to remember earliest

Role model / idol:                                Alicia Smith, Debbie Watson (Waterpolo players), Cathy Freeman

Interests other than sport:                    Working in women’s health Physiotherapy, Catching up with my husband, friends and family, Beach days, and playing with my chocolate labrador ‘Gillwell'.

Football team:                                      The underdog

Sportsmanship means ….                    Giving your best at every contest and being respectful no matter what the result.

Favourite quote:                                   “Many of life's failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up” - Thomas Edison inventor of the light bulb for which he completed approx 10 000 experiments.

Favourite documentary:                       ESPN 30:30 - Survive and Advance. Story of Jim Valvano and the 1983 Wolf Pack


What is one of your greatest memories from the Olympic Games?

The greatest memory I have from the games was walking out for our first game against Russia. The sense of pride and honour is amazing and knowing that you have worked so hard and overcome so much adversity to achieve this dream, and you are finally there and living it. It was the most incredible feeling to sing the national anthem at an Olympic games representing my country at the pinnacle event in my sport. I am so humbled to have joined the very few Australian women waterpolo players to have achieved such an amazing feat these feelings are what I remember most strongly from this moment.

How did you come to participate in your chosen sport? How old were you?

I was 13 years old, and in my first year of high school, Debbie Watson, 2000 Womens Waterpolo Olympic Gold Medalist, taught PD/H/PE at my school. She was holding try outs for Waterpolo. From the moment I met her she inspired me. I wanted to be just like her. I was however not a water athlete. I ran, played netball, touch football, tennis - really anything but. So when I went to the trials I was a poor swimmer, but my netball reflexes and leg strength from running made for a good goalie so that is where I ended up and I am still there today. Meeting Debbie was the start of my Olympic gold medal dreams she inspired me to embark on the most significant and influential goal in my life.

What is the importance of sport for you in your life? How have you continued living a healthy and active lifestyle since retiring from sport?

Sport holds a very important place in my life.

I find sport to be a healthy and positive way to release my competitive energy. I use sport in my life for different reasons, to keep healthy, to push and challenge my limits physically, to be competitive in a positive environment, and for mental release/relaxation but also to PLAY. Adults need to remember how to play to and I use sport in this way as well. Sport will continue to be a part of my life forever for all these reasons.

I have also found that sport has brought me an abundance of incredible relationships. It is through sport that I met my now husband. I have also made friends I will keep forever. Being a team mate, each passionately sharing a unwavering determination to achieve the same goal, brings people of different opinions and different attitudes all together. You develop a deep appreciation and respect for one another, with the knowledge that this dream cannot be achieved as one but instead must involve the unit. These relationships I have developed will last me a lifetime, all because I played sport.

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