Nellie McMillan’s world title honours mate Blake Tickell who died after water ski crash


Before teenager Blake Tickell died after a water ski crash in 2017 he had a dream he shared with a close mate. Now Marian Catholic College student, Nellie, has done something very special for them both.


Hills district water ski prodigy Blake, 13, died after crashing at high speed during a state championship race at Wyangala Dam, southeast of Cowra, in December, 2017.

Water skier Nellie McMillan shared a dream with best mate Blake Tickell that they would compete together and both win a world title in the sport they loved.

Nellie has now realised the dream with Blake “on my shoulder”.

Hills district water ski prodigy Blake, 13, died after crashing at high speed during a state championship race at Wyangala Dam, southeast of Cowra, in December, 2017.

“She and Blake were besties. She spoke at his funeral,” said Nellie’s mother Bobbette ahead of this weekend’s Bridge to Bridge water ski race from Dangar Island to Windsor.

“They were supposed to do this, the world title, together."

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Nellie and Blake were friends from an early age and shared a passion for the sport.


Instead Nellie, 15, did it alone, winning her junior crown at the world water ski championships in Vichy, France, in September.

A student at Marian Catholic College at Kenthurst, Nellie put together a perfect score across three rounds in roughwater to claim the title.

“Blake’s goal was to compete at the worlds and we were supposed to do it together," said Nellie, who lives on the Hawkesbury at Ebenezer and is a fourth generation water ski racer.

“I tried and succeeded. He would be very proud. His parent kept saying he was on my shoulder."

Nellie, who also won a world title in 2017, said her goal was to win the world title but knew it would be difficult because she was younger than many for her rivals.

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Nellie McMillan on her way to winning her world title.


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Simon and Darren Tickell and son Cody on the Blake Tickell's memorial bench at Kellyville


“I learned to train hard and I live and breathe ski racing. I don’t like losing," she said.

“I am on the water two to three times a week, on Botany Bay or Sydney Harbour, and I do some off water training as well.

“It’s all for endurance. I get lots of lactic acid in my body when I get tired. That’s why your mental strength is so important."

Nellie will contest the Bridge to Bridge with partner Hayley Gibson this weekend.

“I love a challenge, I love being competitive," said Nellie, the grand daughter of the famous Australian skier and multiple champion Mary McMillan, who did her 50th Bridge to Bridge in 2014 aged 81.

The Bridge to Bridge was first held in 1961 and is an international renowned ski race.