Elite student-athletes reaching for gold in Pyeongchang

As the opening ceremony for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games draws near, 21 elite student-athletes representing ten Australian universities, are preparing to perform on the world’s greatest sporting stage.

Elite student-athletes are represented across a number of disciplines at the Winter Olympics, and led by University of Newcastle’s Matt Graham.

Graham enters the Olympic village ranked third in the men’s mogul event after posting impressive performances in the lead up to the event.

Australian University Sport CEO Don Knapp is excited by the opportunities elite student-athletes are increasingly being offered to combine pursuing their Olympic dreams with higher education.

“With more than 40% of the Winter Olympic team comprising elite student-athletes, it’s exciting to see Australian universities are not only developing the future leaders of tomorrow, but the future of Australian sport and enabling athletes like our winter Olympians to have dual careers.”

Joining Graham in the moguls will be Rohan Chapman-Davies (The University of New South Wales, UNSW), Madii Himbury and James Matheson (The University of Sydney), Claudia Gueli (The University of Melbourne), Britt Cox (Griffith Sports College), and Brodie Summers (Monash University).

Graham’s combination of tertiary study and competition at an elite level is testament to the elite student-athlete pathway many Australian universities now offer.

“Matt continues to demonstrate high-level sport and high-level academia can and do co-exist. Since finishing 7th at Sochi in 2014, Matt has achieved a top-3 world moguls ranking while pursuing a double degree in Civil Engineering and Business,” said Andrew Yapp, Elite Athlete Support Officer at University of Newcastle.

Meanwhile, Australian Uniroo Callum Watson (UNSW) will lead the Australian charge in cross country skiing.

Making a miraculous recovery from a punctured lung after the Sochi Games, Watson will be in good company with fellow Australian Uniroo Phil Bellingham (Charles Sturt University), sister Aimee Watson, Pita Taufatofua (alumnus of The University of Queensland), Casey Wright (alumna of Victoria University) and Jessica Yeaton (Montana State University) joining him on the start line in Pyeongchang.

Helen Bryson, Elite Athlete Program Manager at The University of New South Wales, said: “It is so exciting to see Callum, Rohan and bobsleigh team member Hayden Smith making the Winter Olympic team. This will be Callum's second Olympics (as a student-athlete), Rohan's first (as a recent graduate) and Brendan’s debut.”

“Both Callum and Rohan have been recipients of our prestigious Ben Lexcen Sports Scholarships and have utilised Elite Athlete Friendly University flexible study provisions throughout their studies as they are constantly travelling overseas to train and compete. UNSW is proud of all our athletes and looks forward to seeing their results at the Games.”

The most accomplished elite student-athlete, returning for her third Winter Olympics, will be RMIT University alumnus Lydia Lassila, who will be looking to secure her third medal from three events. Charles Sturt University student Laura Peel will be hot on Lassila’s heels going into the event with back-to-back bronze medals at Lake Placid two weeks ago. Griffith Sports College student Danielle Scott will also return to the Olympic arena after making her aerials debut in Sochi.

Victoria University student, Harry Laidlaw, will join the alpine team debuting in the giant slalom and slalom events along with RMIT University alumnus David Morris.

Rounding out the team of elite student-athletes will be The University of Melbourne's Anton Grimus (currently a postgraduate student), returning for his second Games after debuting in Sochi 2014 in ski cross; skeleton competitor Jaclyn Narracott (alumna of The University of Queensland); and Hayden Smith (UNSW alumnus) in the bobsleigh team.

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