As more than 3.5 billion people around the world turn their sights towards Rio this week, 30 athletes from our community are getting ready to take their place on the globe’s biggest sporting stage.
Competing across more than 20 disciplines – from water polo, swimming and sailing, to athletics, basketball and hockey – the Sydney cohort represents a significant presence among Australia’s 410-strong Rio team.
For some, like cyclist Rachel Neylan (BApp Sc ’03), 34, rugby sevens player Tom Kingston (BCom ’13), 25, and undergrads Katie Ebzery (basketball), 26, and Hockeyroo defender Georgie (the ‘Armidale arrow’) Morgan, 23, Rio will be the ultimate debut.
For others, like young gun kayaker and current student Jessica Fox, 22, who surprised everyone except herself when she won a silver medal at her first Games in London, fellow kayaker and London gold medallist Murray Stewart (BArch ’09, MArch ’12), 30, and five-time Paralympian wheelchair sprinter Angie Ballard (BSc ’09, Hon ’13), 34, Rio will be another chance to pit their skills against the world’s best.
Athletes from our community will compete across 11 sports across the Rio (6-22 August) and Paralympic (8-19 September) games, including:
The action kicks off early for the Sydney contingent with the basketball, hockey, water polo, rugby and rowing events all beginning on the opening weekend (from 7 August AEST).
This year, our graduates dominate the women’s Australian Water Polo team, the Stingers, making up four of the 13 squad members, including Lea Yanitsas (BSc '12), 27, Hannah Buckling (BSc '14), 24, Keesja Gofers (BDes Arch ’12), 26, and 25-year-old Nicola Zagame (BApp Sc '14) who was part of the bronze medal-winning 2012 London side.
With a further Stinger, Isobel Bishop, 24, also a member of the Sydney University Lions Women's Water Polo Club, the Australian side is packed full Sydney talent.
On centre stage in Rio’s main stadium, eight Sydney athletes will represent the nation across a range of disciplines from the 100m hurdles to the historic 42km marathon, which will finish at the Games’ centrepiece.
Taking on what is regarded as the Games’ greatest challenge will be Sydney University Sport and Fitness (SUSF) Elite Athlete Program alumna Amelia Clark (BApp Sc ’13, MNut Diet ’15), 27, who, after starting out as a middle-distance runner, incredibly clocked a Rio qualifier in her first-ever marathon in Amsterdam last year. Her third-place time of 2.29.07 was a top 10 all-time performance by an Australian female.
Also warming up for the track is 23-year-old, fourth-year Bachelor of Mechatronic Engineering student and 100m hurdler Michelle Jenneke – affectionately known as the ‘dancing hurdler’ after her warm-up routine at the 2012 Junior World Championships became a YouTube hit.
On the water, siblings Will Ryan (BCom ’12), 27, and Jaime Ryan, a Bachelor of Science undergrad, will compete in their respective 470 class sailing events, while Games’ rowing debutants Cameron Girdlestone (BEd ’10) and Alexander Belonogoff (BApp Sc ’15) will form half of the gold medal-favourite men’s quadruple sculls team.
The 30 athletes from the University community in Rio will be part of a tradition that stretches back 110 years.
In 1906, engineering student Nigel Barker became the University’s first Olympian when he competed for Australia at the interim Athens Games, winning bronze in the 100m and 400m sprints.
Since then, more than 140 members of our community have competed at the Games, bringing home an impressive 58 medals, including 12 gold.
At the London Games the group’s combined tally would have ranked them equal 39, with Mexico and Georgia, on the overall medal ladder.
Alumnus Ross Parker (BEc '59), 80, who competed in the 400m hurdles at the 1956 Melbourne Games, congratulated the 29 Sydney members of the Australian team, and said all our athletes should be proud of their achievements.
“The Olympics is the biggest stage in world sport,” he said. “On behalf of all of us in the University of Sydney fraternity … congratulations, best wishes, and don’t forget, enjoy!”
View a full schedule of events featuring members of our community.
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