NBA championship-winner Patty Mills says a golden generation of athletes can put the capital on the map as one of the best sporting cities in Australia and ''give a bit back'' to Canberra's critics.
Mills is leading a new wave of Canberra sport stars who are leaving their mark on the international stage, including teenage tennis ace Nick Kyrgios, cyclist Michael Matthews, Socceroo Tom Rogic, Hockeyroo Anna Flanagan and BMX champion Caroline Buchanan.
The 25-year-old hopes the capital's unprecedented international success inspires budding athletes to follow the same path.
Canberra cops an unfair reputation as being a boring base for the country's politicians. But in the past month Mills has won an NBA title with the San Antonio Spurs and signed a $12 million deal, Kyrgios made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and beat world No. 1 Rafael Nadal and Matthews was set for his Tour de France debut before injury ruined his campaign.
''I think it's amazing, it would be great to see Canberra athletes recognised across all sports,'' Mills said. ''It's not even in one sport, we're everywhere and it's huge for the city of Canberra. Canberra always cops a lot of flak about the city, this is our chance to give a bit back to those critics.''
Canberra and Queanbeyan have been blessed with some of Australia's greatest athletes in previous years, boasting the likes of Stephen Larkham, George Gregan, Ricky Stuart, Mark Webber, Michael Rogers and David Campese. But the new breed is set to take over with their international exposure poised to give the capital unprecedented exposure.
Mills had shoulder surgery on Friday Australian time, which will keep him out of action for the next seven months. The San Antonio point guard is planning a trip back to Canberra with the NBA championship trophy in the coming weeks, with a public appearance pencilled in for July 18.
Mills will miss up to three months of the 2014-15 NBA season, but the Spurs have put faith in the former Canberra Marist College student by agreeing to a $12 million, three-year deal to stay in San Antonio. Mills' success has been followed by Kyrgios' stunning rise at Wimbledon.
The 19-year-old shocked world No. 1 Nadal before losing his quarter-final match against Milos Raonic.
Kyrgios has been touted as the next big thing in tennis and will return to Canberra in the coming days to recuperate before launching his US Open campaign. ''I managed to sneak in some highlights of [Kyrgios' win against Nadal], that was absolutely huge for Canberra,'' Mills said.
''I don't know a whole lot about him, but I can tell you what: I'm super proud of his efforts and the way he performed. I don't know what it is about Canberra at the moment, but there are just world-class athletes in every sport.''
Matthews was set to debut in the Tour de France on Saturday night before a crash on Tuesday resulted in six stitches in his hand and gashes on his arms and legs. The 23-year-old wore the pink jersey in the Giro d'Italia for six days and won the sixth stage of cycling's second biggest event.
Rogic was on the verge of his World Cup dream before a heartbreaking groin injury ruled him out of the Socceroos' campaign on the eve of the tournament.
Flanagan has played more than 100 games for the Hockeyroos and will aim for a Commonwealth Games gold medal later this month. The 22-year-old has already won one Commonwealth Games gold medal and played at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Buchanan is a BMX world champion and an Olympian who has her sights set on winning a gold medal at the Games in Rio in 2016, while former Lake Ginninderra College student Dante Exum was drafted last week to join Mills in the NBA next season.