UNSW students are in the mix for medals at the Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics.
Eight current and former UNSW students will compete at the games in Brazil in sports such as cycling, sailing, steeplechase, swimming and rugby. Another five UNSW Sports Club members are making a splash in water polo and dominating the mat in judo.
“On behalf of UNSW I would like to congratulate all of the elite athlete students who are competing at the Olympics and Paralympics in Rio. We all wish them the best of luck and hope they achieve their goals,” says Helen Bryson, Coordinator of UNSW's Elite Athlete Program and Sports Scholarships.
“To achieve the pinnacle in their sport while simultaneously studying at university is quite remarkable,” she added.
Among the standouts are swimming sensation Prue Watt and rising rugby union star Henry Hutchison. Both are members of UNSW’s Elite Athlete Program and recipients of prestigious Ben Lexcen Sports Scholarships.
Watt is a neuroscience major, an Order of Australia medallist, and one of UNSW’s most decorated athletes.
The four-time Paralympian won gold in the 100m breaststroke and bronze in the 50m freestyle at the London games in 2012. She also competed in Athens in 2004, where she won five silver medals and one bronze, and at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008.
Watt, who is partially blind, isn’t letting the pressure of being a medal hopeful in Rio become a distraction: “My approach is to stay pretty relaxed and not get too worried about what may or may not happen. I would just like to focus on my own performance and enjoy the experience,” she says.
Second-year commerce student Henry Hutchison will represent Australia in the Rugby 7s tournament.
The speedy 19-year-old donned the green and gold at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa last year and was promptly promoted to the senior squad for the Olympic qualifying tournament.
Despite a strong debut, a ticket to Rio still wasn’t locked in: “I have to impress the coaches at training and on the world circuit and make sure I have done everything possible to ensure I am on that plane,” Hutchison told the UNSW Newsroom in February.
His chances were likely helped by scoring twice in a thrilling quarter-final victory over England in the HSBC World Rugby 7s Series in Sydney.
“To score two late tries in front of a home crowd, full of family and friends, was honestly a dream come true. It will definitely be a moment of my life I’ll never forget,” Hutchison says.
He’s hoping for more unforgettable moments over the coming weeks. Australia plays its first game against France on 10 August.
UNSW’s other students competing in Rio are: Master of International Public Health student, Madeline Hills, who will race in the women’s 5000m track event and the 3000m steeplechase, and Bachelor of Science student, Colin Cheng, who will represent his native Singapore in the sailing competition. Ben Lexcen Scholar and water polo champion Nathan Power had been selected in the Australian squad but was forced to withdraw after sustaining an injury while training in Croatia last month.