University of Sydney athletes in action as London Olympics get underway

30 July 2012

More than 30 University of Sydney athletes - students, graduates and sports club members - are representing Australia at the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics. Andrew Tilley from Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness (SUSF) reports on the first weekend of action.

University of Sydney graduate Bronwen Watson and her rowing partner Hannah Every-Hall are through to the semi-finals of the Olympic regatta after a brilliant row in the heats of the women's lightweight double sculls on day two of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Watson and Every-Hall, both making their Olympic debuts after coming out of retirements that followed near-misses in the past, shocked everyone on the Eton Dorney course to row second-fastest (7:05.30) behind gold-medal favourites and 2011 world champions Greece (7:03.66).

The combination of Australia's oldest rowers disappointed during the World Cup season but produced their best row of the year to make Thursday's semi-finals.

In the heats for the women's eight, Australia's crew - which includes Sydney University Women's Rowing Club (SUWRC) members Sarah Cook and Sally Kehoe - finished in second position (6:20.89) behind the favourites for the event, the United States (6:14.68).

The Australian crew - thrown together at the 11th hour in April - rowed courageously and responded to the pressure of a British challenge and a raucous 22,000-strong crowd.

The United States will now go directly through to the final, while Australia will compete in the repechage on Tuesday.

The men's eight also finished in second position (5:32.43) behind the United States (5:30.72). The crew, containing five Sydney Uni representatives (Tobias Lister, Matt Ryan, Sam Loch, Francis Hegerty, Nicholas Purnell) will now row in the repechage on Monday evening (Australian time).

Fellow University of Sydney rower Brodie Buckland was superb as he and his men's pair partner James Marburg qualified for Wednesday's semi-finals as the fourth-fastest crew.

Away from the rowing regatta, members of the University of Sydney sporting community were in action in other water-based sports.

After missing Olympic selection three times to fellow University of Sydney graduate Robin Bell, whitewater paddler Kynan Maley is aiming to make the most of his games debut in Tuesday's cut-throat semi-finals appearance.

Maley, 30, snuck into the C1 final in the canoe slalom heats on Sunday but it won't deter him as he attempts a surprise assault on the medals.

Unpredictable results have been traditional in Olympic slalom competition, and the former SUSF Elite Athlete Program (EAP) scholarship holder needs to produce a top-eight score in the semi-final to make the final.

Maley, who is also competing in the C2 with crewmate Robin Jeffery, produced heat runs of 96.07 and 96.68, incurring time penalties during both attempts.

He expects to produce better in the semi-final.

"The course was tricky and a lot of people made mistakes," Maley told Ninemsn. "It's a real challenge because there's no space to regroup and get back on line if you make a mistake.

"The second run left a lot to be desired. Mentally I sustained the effort, but I made a few silly mistakes."

It was also a mixed day for sailor and SUSF EAP scholarship holder Olivia Price, who is studying for a Bachelor of Arts.

Price, skipper of the women's Elliot 6m round robin Australian team, led her crew to one win and a loss against Finland and France respectively.

She will be back on the water tonight, competing against the United States and Great Britain.

The University's water polo representatives, Thomas Whalan and Sam McGregor, were part of the Australia team that was defeated 7-4 by Italy in their first game of the Olympics.

Italy flew out of the blocks to take a 3-1 lead for the first quarter, but Australia stayed with the Italians for the remainder of the game and an unlikely comeback looked possible when Australian Johnno Cotterill scrambled home a goal to make it 7-5 after an Australian time-out. However, Italy scored the final goal to win by three.

Earlier on day two, graduate and former EAP scholarship holder Megan Rivers was part of the women's hockey team that lost 1-0 to New Zealand in their first group game.

Cathryn Finlayson scored the only goal of the game in the third minute when she swept home a penalty corner rebound from virtually the Blacksticks' first attack.

In the 14th minute, Rivers created Australia's best chance of the contest as she smashed a shot against goalkeeper Bianca Russell's right-hand post. Unfortunately the ball rebounded across the face of goal and went out for a sideline hit.

It was the Hockeyroos first Olympic loss to New Zealand in five meetings. Rivers and her team will look to bounce back against Germany on Tuesday.

It was a different story for the women's basketball team, containing former Southern Design Sydney Uni Flames player Belinda Snell.

On day one of competition, Snell lined up against a fellow former Flame, Great Britain representative Natalie Stafford, in the Opals 16-point victory over the tournament hosts.

Both girls were great. Snell scored four points and had three assists, while Stafford top scored for GB with 12 points. The Opals next opponents are Brazil tomorrow morning.

A host of Sydney Uni Olympians are competing in coming days. See our schedule of events.

Follow our London 2012 Olympians on Twitter

Enquiries: Andrew Tilley, Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness, 9351 8116,