Sydney stars to shine at games

23 July 2014

Bachelor of Arts student and 400m runner Anneliese Rubie is part of the university's biggest ever Commonwealth Games contingent.
Bachelor of Arts student and 400m runner Anneliese Rubie is part of the university's biggest ever Commonwealth Games contingent.

The University of Sydney will field its biggest contingent of athletes to ever compete in a Commonwealth Games when 17 students go for gold in Glasgow.

The team hopes to follow up on the success of the 2010 Delhi games where our athletes picked up five gold, seven silver and one bronze.

That tally would have ranked the university in 12th position in the overall medal tally - ahead of countries including Northern Ireland, Wales, Cyprus and Jamaica. The team backed that up at the London Olympics, where their tally would have ranked them equal 39th with Mexico and Georgia.

Second year speech pathology student Emily Esposito is balancing nerves with excitement. "It's up there with the Olympics for Australia," Esposito said.

Esposito, 21, had originally followed her dad into modern pentathlon but found the time commitment was too much to balance with studies.

"If you do pentathlon you eat, sleep, and breathe the sport," Esposito said. "I wanted to do well in school so I decided to focus just on pistol shooting."

Esposito said the Sydney Uni Sport and Fitness Elite Athlete Program (EAP) had enabled her to balance her study and training workloads.

"Without the scholarship I'd be failing my course," she said. "I'm constantly travelling to competitions. They've helped organise things so I could get extensions. I'm really lucky."

Someone who knows all about balance is Olympic gold medal diver and Arts/Science student Matthew Mitcham who will be competing at his third games.

Mitcham, 26, who has yet to finish on top of the podium in a Commonwealth Games, said it was really important to be working on plan Bs while you're competing.

"By the time athletes retire, it's often too late to start a new life. Not only does study help set up athletes for life after competition it also helps provide an outlet away from their chosen sport."

One of the biggest challenges in a training sense is managing the "double peak", says 400m runner Anneliese Rubie, who's been training six days a week, sometimes twice a day, in preparation for her first games.

"Our nationals and selection trials were in April," said Rubie, 22, who is completing a Bachelor of Arts degree.

"That means I have to be at my peak for racing twice within a couple of months. Not only is it hard physically to sustain that intensity for so long, it's hard to mentally back up and focus on racing after such a short turn around.

"It's difficult fitting all my hours of training around lectures and tutorials, however the facilities and the staff at SUSF are world-class and allow a fulltime athlete to also be a fulltime student."

For wheelchair athlete Angie Ballard this will be the 32-year-old's second Commonwealth Games but her first competing in the 1500m due to the Games' select program of six para-sport events.

"I prefer the 200 and 400m but wheelchair racing is more like cycling than athletics in that sprinters can do a wider range of events," says Ballard, who grew up just outside of Canberra before moving to Sydney to study, completing a Bachelor of Science with Honours in Psychology last year.

Fortunately, Ballard believes the 1500m will be a very open race. "There's around six of us who could finish on the podium. I've got a good sprint so who knows."

University of Sydney students will compete in athletics, diving, table tennis, pistol, rhythmic gymnastics, swimming, wrestling and the rugby sevens at the games.