HMAS Sydney has won a novel title and strengthened ties with the United States Navy, thanks to the ability of crew members to do push-ups.

COVID-19 has presented challenges for every unit within the ADF and none more so than the guided missile destroyer Sydney.

Currently deployed to the Southern California Exercise Area to conduct combat system sea qualifications trials (CSSQTs) on her Aegis Weapons System, Sydney found herself alongside San Diego Naval Base for a two-week period.

But the crew could not go ashore.

Sydney had the company of USS Harpers Ferry berthed on the other side of Pier 4 for maintenance which presented as an opportunity for a unique international engagement.

Having watched the crew of Harpers Ferry conduct push-ups one day, Sydney’s physical training instructor Leading Seaman Calum Dawson took the opportunity to strengthen ties between the crews of the ships by arranging a push-up challenge.

The ultimate goal was to determine the ‘best crew and toughest ship’ on Pier 4.

“In a COVID-19 environment we have had to adapt to the new normal, including in the physical training space,” Leading Seaman Dawson said.

“The perfect opportunity arose for us to challenge others outside of the ship and strengthen bonds between Australia and our allies.”

The April 16 challenge consisted of two teams from each ship – five of the strongest males and three of the strongest females – competing against each other.

Sydney’s crew lined her upper decks in support of her competitors while Harpers Ferry’s challengers took to the pier as they prepared to conduct the push-ups to cadence. 

The female challengers were first up. Both teams started strong, but at the 30 push-up mark, the form of the Harpers Ferry team started to deteriorate, with all its competitors bowing out by 50.

Sydney’s Able Seaman Pamela Mery pushed through to hit an impressive count of 70 push-ups, all without compromising form. 

A loud cheer hailed from both ships as the crews were in awe of the superb performance.

Able Seaman Mery said the event was a great opportunity to compete with some allies while still keeping safe in the COVID-19 environment.

After a clear victory by the Sydney females, the male competitors lined up. 

Sydney’s Leading Seaman Pete Sleeman took out top spot for the males, finishing with 85 push-ups to cadence. 

Despite Sydney’s victory on the day, international relations were the real winner. 

Commanding Officer Sydney Commander Ted Seymour said the crew appreciated the sportsmanship of their USS Harpers Ferry counterparts.

“Being unable to go ashore, opportunities like this push-up competition give us a break from the repetitive nature of living on board a warship for a long period of time during a pandemic,” Commander Seymour said.

“Our thanks to Harpers Ferry for taking the time to be involved in some friendly competition. We will be ready for a rematch.”

Able Seaman Madeline Whatley, left, and Leading Seaman Physical Training Instructor Calum Dawson, right, congratulate Able Seaman Pamela Mery after she took out the female’s push-up challenge against the US Navy at Pier 4 in San Diego, US.