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Record number of USYD athletes Commonwealth Games bound

by Nicole Safi | March 15, 2018
Record number of USYD athletes Commonwealth Games bound

The University of Sydney will send a record 19 academic athletes to the 2018 Commonwealth Games to be held on Queensland’s Gold Coast, a dynamic mix of club-affiliated, current and former University of Sydney Elite Athlete Program members.

These athletes will compete across a range of sports including athletics -- the University's most heavily represented discipline with 13 Sydney University Athletics Club representatives -- as well as basketball, table tennis, rhythmic gynmastics and boxing. 

The Games have proven a happy-hunting ground for Sydney University athletes with 17 selected to compete at the last Games in Glasgow four years ago. Seven Sydney University athletes competed with distinction at Delhi in 2010, picking up five gold, seven silver and one bronze medal. On home soil in Melbourne 2006, Sydney University’s seven Australian representatives came away with an incredible six medals.

This year, the list of athletes is as exceptional as ever. It features three-time Olympian and 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medalist, Belinda Snell, 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Angela Ballard, table tennis extraordinaire, Kane Townsend and so many more. Read up on all the athletes below. 

NICHOLAS HOUGH | ATHLETICS | MEN’S 110m HURDLES

Sydney University Athletics Club (SUAC) 2017 Athlete of the Year, Nick Hough, looks primed to do serious damage on the Gold Coast in the 110m hurdles. At 16-years-of-age Hough entered international competition with a bang at the 2010 Youth Olympics, claiming gold in the 110m Hurdles. While just missing selection for Rio, Hough rebounded, making the Australian team for the 2017 London Athletics World Championships. Indeed 2017 was Hough’s year in the high hurdles as he achieved a number of Qualifying Commonwealth Games times with a succession of barnstorming runs on the European summer circuit. A likeable and imposing figure on the track, standing 191cm, Hough graduated with a Bachelor of Information Technology (Honours) from Sydney University in 2017. Hough placed 4th in the 100m Hurdles final at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and would like nothing better than to stand on the podium at the Gold Coast.

MICHELLE JENNEKE | ATHLETICS | 100m HURDLES

Fearless and fun-loving both describe Michelle Jenneke who will compete in the notoriously technical 100m Hurdles after a tenacious second at the 2018 Australian Championships sealed her selection. Studying a Bachelor of Engineering in Mechatronics at Sydney University, Jenneke rose to prominence through silver at the 2010 Youth Olympics where so many current SUAC stars achieved their first international selection, followed by 5th at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and two subsequent World Championship semi-final appearances. Current SUAC team captain, Jenneke is a star performer off the track too with her vivacious personality, passion and generosity, using her profile to help various charities and causes.

KANE TOWNSEND | TABLE TENNIS | MEN’S TABLE TENNIS

'Attack, and if that doesn’t work, attack some more' is a the perfect motto for an elite Table Tennis player. Kane Townsend epitomises this approach, and consistently so against top-flight competitors. Townsend is in the 12-member 2018 Commonwealth Games Australian Table Tennis Team on the strength of his consistent results, including the 2018 Australian Commonwealth Games Qualifying Tournament in January. No stranger to this level of tournament, the left-handed Townsend reached the quarter-finals at Glasgow in 2014. Townsend, who will turn 25 years old during the Commonwealth Games, first started playing table tennis as a five-year-old, with both parents playing at the national level and starting a table tennis club when he was four. If that isn’t enough table tennis DNA in one family, Townsend’s older brother Wade is also one of Australia’s leading competitors. More than ably juggling academic pursuit with sport, Townsend was jointly awarded the USYD School of Mathematics and Statistics, George Allen Scholarship for Pure Mathematics.

ANNELIESE RUBIE | ATHLETICS | WOMEN’S 400m & 4x400m RELAY

With a Rio Olympics (individual semi-finalist and relay finalist) in the women’s 400m, plus three World Championships and the 2014 Commonwealth Games listed among her extensive sporting achievements, it’s safe to say Anneliese (Annie) Rubie knows her way round an athletics track. Having a serious tilt at the 800m distance in recent times, Rubie should have the speed and strength to carry her right to the Gold Coast finish line of the 400m in the green and gold. Rubie ripped out an imposing 51.92 to win the 2018 Australian 400m Championship gold medal and with it automatic qualification for the Gold Coast in April, where she will contest both the 400m individual and relay events.  Regularly supported by family at Athletics NSW meets, Rubie is another committed Sydney University Athletics Club member always ready to front up for her club. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts at Sydney University last year, Rubie is a hugely popular and humble athlete with a steely inner drive.

BELINDA SNELL | BASKETBALL | AUSTRALIAN OPALS

Current Captain of the Brydens Sydney Uni Flames and long term Australian women’s basketball star, Belinda Snell has pulled out all the stops in making the Opals team along with fellow Flames playmaker Katie-Rae Ebzery after impressing at the first training camp in February. A guard and forward, Snell is a bona-fide legend of Australian women’s basketball. You couldn’t meet a more humble person off the court, but come game time, she is all business with a level of competitiveness only found among the best. Snell surged to prominence as part of the WNBL Championship AIS team in 1998/99, alongside such luminaries as Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor and Suzy Batkovic. Snell has done it all and more, representing Australia at the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and World Championships, last year named the University of Sydney's Female Blue of the Year for 2017, as Captain of the Flames 2016/17 Championship-winning side. Holding a Graduate Certificate in Educational Studies (Sports Coaching), Snell will be looking to claim her second Commonwealth Games Gold after winning one in 2006. 

ROHAN BROWNING | ATHLETICS | MEN’S 100m & 4x100m

Sydney University Athletics Club has a great history of producing ‘fast as the wind’ sprinters and Rohan Browning is no exception. Browning is part of a charging wave of male sprinters, including Trae Williams, fellow SUAC sprinter Josh Clarke and Jack Hale, pushing each other and Browning is glad for the competition and comradery. As at February 5, 2018, Browning had posted the fastest Australian 100m qualifying time, running a blistering 10.19 in Brisbane last December. Browning then took out the ACT 100m Men’s Championship in January in a major showdown with Hale and Williams. In a photo finish Browning was awarded the title, clocking 10.225. A big head-to-head arrived with the 2018 Australian Athletic Championships in February and Browning stood up with a blistering silver medal in 10.20, earning him not only an individual 100m Games berth but also a place in the 4 x 100m Men’s relay. Browning, aged 20 years old, has been beeping the speed radar for some years now since he moved to Trinity Grammar and started specific athletics training.

KATIE-RAE EBZERY | BASKETBALL | AUSTRALIAN OPALS

One of the most talented and competitive basketballers ever to play for Brydens Sydney Uni Flames, Katie Ebzery has been a mainstay of the Australian Opals since 2015. It’s hard to believe Ebzery is still only 28-years-old as she has achieved so much in her sporting career, including playing 11 seasons in the Women’s National Basketball League, seven of those in Flames colours. Ebzery was part of the Opals squad that took out the 2015 FIBA Oceania Championship that qualified Australia for the Rio Olympics and then she competed at the Rio Games, scoring 11 points in one game against Turkey. Lightning quick over the floorboards, Ebzery is always on the hunt for points and being lethal at two-point or three-point range makes her a threat to every opposition. Studying a Bachelor of Education (Human Movement) at the University of Sydney, Ebzery is a strong believer in sport and the positives it can offer children growing up, including socially and instilling teamwork values. 

JOSHUA RALPH | ATHLETICS | MEN’S 800m & 4x400m

Ralphy, or the Night Fox as he has been known, is a dynamic 800m runner who runs because he enjoys it. With an A-Qualifying time already in his kit bag and a powerful 2nd place at the 2018 Australian Championships, Ralph earned selection for Gold Coast 2018 in both his favoured 800m event and the prestigious 4x400 Men’s relay. Ralph represented Australia in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 800m and is hungering for another chance on a big stage. Holding a Bachelor of Applied Science (Exercise & Sport Science) from the University of Sydney, Ralph is multi-talented, playing a few musical instruments which may come in handy at the Games Village. While track running is his forte, Ralph claimed lots of ‘street cred’ in taking out the 2013 Balmoral Burn, a charity run over 420m up one of Sydney’s steepest streets. This win put to rest some demons, as in 2009 Ralph stepped into a pothole in his warm-down after finishing fourth on this very same course snapping three ligaments in his right ankle, ending running till a yearning returned in 2011. Ralph, 26 years old, grew up in Sydney and was prominent in athletics and cross country at Newington College. 

ANGELA BALLARD | PARA-ATHLETICS | T53/54 1500m

One athlete who doesn’t need an introduction is Angela (Angie) Ballard; one of Australia’s most decorated and admired para-athletes. Ballard has earned selection for the T53/54 1500m, an event in which she won gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. It won’t be a saloon passage as the sprint distances, especially 200m and 400m, are Ballard’s stronger events and there are champion competitors, such as fellow Aussie Madison de Rozario, also eyeing the 1500m race. Ballard will be relying on her vast Championship experience where she has succeeded at seven World Para-Championships starting from 1998; five Paralympic Games and two Commonwealth Games, winning medals of all colours. The celebrated wheelchair racer and 2017 SUAC Athlete of the Year, alongside Nick Hough, Ballard is the ultimate competitor. Ballard is generous in giving back to wheelchair sports, serving as an ambassador of a number of organisations. Ballard is an Elite Athlete Program Alumna with a Bachelor of Science (Psychology), awarded 2009 and Bachelor of Science (Honours), awarded 2013, both from Sydney University. 

JAMES NIPPERESS | ATHLETICS | MEN’S 3000m STEEPLECHASE

No one was going to beat 3000m Steeplechase tyro James Nipperess to the finish line at the recent 2018 Australian Athletics Championships, though the gruelling, hot and humid conditions took their toll. Lying prone on the track afterwards, in obvious discomfort, the realisation of running a brilliant 8.43:89 was a welcome tonic as it provided Nipperess with automatic qualification. The University of Sydney graduate, Bachelor of Applied Science (Physiotherapy), has represented Australia many times before, including the 2015 World Championships and 2014 Commonwealth Games and is not about to surrender his domination of the Australian 3000m Steeplechase to anyone soon. This latest National 3000m SC title is his fourth, though he also finished as the first Australian and second overall at the 2016/17 Championships. A long-time member of SUAC, Nipperess is now based in Canberra under distance-running guru Dick Telford. Nipperess has been slowly building his aerobic capacity by taking on longer challenges and in his 2017 City to Surf debut, the longest race of his career to date, he achieved his goal of a top-five finish with a 4th placing. Come the Games, Nipperess will be ready for anything.   

MADELINE HEINER-HILLS | ATHLETICS | WOMEN’S 5000m & 10,000m

One of the most enduring and compelling memories of the Rio Olympics was watching Madeline Heiner-Hills break new ground for Australia in finishing 7th place in the Women’s 3000m Steeplechase final and then 10th place in the 5,000m final. Amazingly in both races Heiner-Hills produced personal best times (PBs). Heiner-Hills is never out of the race and you will not find a more determined competitor as she lines up the runner in front of her and fights for every place. The former SUAC athlete and University of Sydney Alumna, graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy in 2008. In a family affair, Heiner-Hills’ brother and sister also gained a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney, inspiring her to follow their example. Finishing 2nd in the 2018 5000m National Athletics Championships in February, Heiner-Hills had also achieved not one but three A- qualifying times for this event, thus securing her place in our Australian Track and Field Team in both the 5,000m and 10,000m events. Heiner-Hills has always displayed incredible resilience throughout her remarkable career. Injured in the summer of 2017, training and living in Melbourne, she stunned in her May 2017 comeback with a huge 10,000m one-minute PB to earn selection for the 2017 World Athletic Championships in London. Heiner-Hills is one to watch whenever she hits the track.

JOSHUA CLARKE | ATHLETICS | MEN’S 100m & 4x100m

A little over two years ago Josh Clarke was the fastest Australian 100m sprinter, clocking a scorching personal best of 10.15 to qualify for the Rio Olympics. Clarke would have been the first Australian male sprinter to represent in the blue-riband Olympic Men’s 100m since 2004 Athens. Unfortunately with his Olympic debut in sight Clarke made the gut-wrenching decision to withdraw from the Australian team due to hamstring problems. Fast-forward to 2018 and that is exactly what Clarke has done in re-establishing himself as one the country’s premier sprinters, claiming 3rd place in the recent Men’s 100m Australian Track and Field Championships. Now living and training in Canberra at the AIS, Clarke, still just 22 years old, has joined a stable of top-line athletes under the guidance of famed coach Matt Beckenham. Clarke felt he needed a change and his resurgent times this season endorse his move. Clarke will feature in both the 100m individual and the 4 x 100m Men’s Relay at the Gold Coast. It is great to see the SUAC athlete and Sydney University Bachelor of Commerce student daring to dream big again and in barnstorming form.

IAN DEWHURST | ATHLETICS | MEN’S 400m HURDLES

Hell bent on cracking the elusive 49 second barrier for the Men’s 400 Hurdles is Ian Dewhurst and his winning time of 49.80 at the February 2018 Athletics Australia National Championships shows he is close. Long-time member of SUAC, Dewhurst has now shifted base to Western Australia for love to be with his partner and fellow elite-hurdler Brianna Beahan, who also won selection in the Australian Athletics team for Gold Coast 2018. Dewhurst has been the standard-bearer for the Men’s 400m in Australia since 2013 and has now won three National Championships at seniors along with one Junior title back in 2008, plus a host of silver medals at both levels. Buoyed by a tremendous start to season 2017/18, where he has posted a personal best time for 200m and stamped his authority over a strong field in winning his season opening 400 hurdles in 49.83, Dewhurst is excited for the Commonwealth Games. A background in distance running has given the Sydney Uni Masters of Physiotherapy graduate a strong aerobic foundation which he draws on in surging to the finish line. Dewhurst is not getting too far ahead of himself though as he makes sure he does everything right in the final countdown to the Games. 

ANGUS ARMSTRONG | ATHLETICS | MEN’S POLE VAULT

It is a special breed of athlete that is drawn to the Pole Vault and Angus Armstrong likes, “A feeling you can’t get anywhere else,” as he sails over a bar in the sky 5 metres up. Armstrong booked his Gold Coast ticket as one of three Australian male pole-vault competitors on the back of his 5.15m clearance at the 2018 National Championships and a string of Games qualifying heights to his name. Starting a double-degree in 2015 at Sydney University in Biomedical Engineering and Advanced Science, Armstrong has a prodigious talent for the pole vault. Holding a personal best of 5.52m, achieved this year in Sydney, Armstrong rewrote the record books at the 2015 Australian Championships when he vaulted 5.35m to take the gold and become the youngest winner to do so at 18 years and 10 days old in the 121-year history of the event.  Soon to be 21 years old, Armstrong is coached by Hungarian Olympic pole vaulter Zsuzsanna Olgyay-Szabo who moved to Australia in 2007. Armstrong enjoys the comradery and challenge of being one of 4-5 male vaulters around Australia consistently jumping 5.40m and higher. Literally the sky is the limit for Armstrong.

NICOLA MCDERMOTT | ATHLETICS | WOMEN’S HIGH JUMP

Nicola McDermott is a standout in High Jump. McDermott placed equal third at the 2018 Australian Athletic Championships with a clearance of 1.80m and this brilliant result was supported by a string of Games qualifying jumps. Hailing from the Central Coast of NSW, McDermott started in Little Athletics at age 8 years old. McDermott has mastered consistent progression in honing her craft while trying not to push too hard in her developing years, a philosophy practised by her long-time Coach, Matt Horsnell. McDermott’s approach is evidenced by podium finishes at three consecutive Australian Junior Championships where she made jumps of 1.70m, 1.79m and 1.88m respectively. McDermott’s personal best is 1.90m from 2017. Representing internationally a number of times, McDermott excelled at the 2017 Universiade making the final and jumping 1.88m. McDermott blitzed the field at the 2017 Australian Uni Games on the Gold Coast setting a new games high-jump record of 1.85m, a monstrous 25 centimetres higher than the runner-up.

LARRISA PASTERNATSKY | ATHLETICS | WOMEN’S 200m

Making her Commonwealth Games debut at 26-years-old, Larrisa Pasternatsky’s form was put on show at the 2018 NSW Track & Field Championships in February, taking out the Women’s 200m final in 23.69, backing it up with a sensational win in the 100m with a time of 11.70. Receiving the call up to replace fellow Sydney University Athletics Club member, Ella Nelson, who withdrew from the Games due to medical reasons, Pasternatsky has undoubtedly earned her spot in the 109-strong Australian squad following a string of standout representative performances, namely at this year’s Australian Athletics Championships where she claimed gold as part of the NSW 4x100m relay team and bronze in the 200m, and last year at the 29th Summer Universiade where she and the Australian Women’s 4x100m relay team finished fifth. Awarded her Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Sydney in 2014, the Elite Athlete Program alumna is one of 13 Sydney University Athletics Club members representing Australia at the Games.

SARAH ROY | CYCLING | WOMEN’S ROAD TEAM

Since 2014, Sarah Roy’s repertoire has grown ever-more impressive, being capped this year with her debut selection in the Women’s Road Team bound for the Commonwealth Games. Named Australia’s criterium champion in 2014, Sarah’s breakthrough came in 2017, taking out Orica Scott’s first WorldTour victory of the season at the OVO Energy Women’s Tour in London. 2017 also saw her finish in first place in the SwissEver GP Cham-Hagendorn, an elite professional one-day road race held in Switzerland, and third or fourth in tours across China, Italy, Belgium and France. The gymnast/triathlete-turned road cyclist is a former member of the Elite Athlete Program who currently rides for women’s professional cycling team, Mitchelton-Scott and calls Sydney University Velo her home club.

ENID SUNG | WOMEN'S RHYTHMIC GYMNASTICS

After claiming silver at the 2018 Rhythmic Gymnastics Australia Cup (doubling as her final selection event for the Commonwealth Games), Enid Sung is determined as ever to represent her country on home soil after a shoulder injury sidelined her in the lead-up to the 2016 Rio Olympics. At only 22-years of age, Enid has enjoyed an impressive career – finishing 19th in the teams’ final as a young teenager at the 2010 World Championships, representing the Uniroos at two World University Games (despite three selections with injury ruling her out in 2015) and competing at the Australian Championships in 2015. Enid was awarded her Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) degree from the University of Sydney in 2017.

ANJA STRIDSMAN | BOXING | WOMEN’S 60KG

New to the Elite Athlete Program in 2018, the Swedish-born boxer has had a tough road to the Commonwealth Games, winning her three qualification fights (including the Australian Titles) with a ruptured ACL. Now, with a brand new knee, Anja will compete in the women’s 60 kilogram lightweight division and join 12 others to make up Australia’s boxing team headed to the Games. Anja studies a Bachelor of Arts & Bachelor of Economics full-time at the University of Sydney.

OTHERS TO WATCH:

JAYDEN LAWRENCE, WRESTLING: Sydney University Wrestling Club member Jayden Lawrence will compete at his second games (86kgs) after receiving the call up for Glasgow in 2014.  He will join an 8-man/woman Australian squad. Three others, including two club coaches and athlete, Yareni Guerrero, were selected as referees.

ASHLEE ANKUDINOFF, CYCLING: Member of the former NSWIS Sydney Uni Road Cycling Team, Ashlee Ankudinoff was selected as part of Australia’s women’s endurance squad for cycling.

CHERYL CHAMBERS, BASKETBALL: WNBL Championship winning coach of the Brydens Sydney Uni Flames will line up alongside players Belinda Snell and Katie-Rae Ebzery as Assistant Coach of the Australian Opals. 

The 21st Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast will host its opening ceremony on Wednesday, 4 April with 11 days of competition to follow. The Games will see 70 nations and territories compete across 18 sports and seven para-sports. Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness would like to wish the Australian team, especially the above competitors, the very best of luck.

Keep up-to-date on all things Commonwealth Games on the official website.

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