Sydney Olympian Liz Morgan-Brett and Sydney Olympic beach volleyball gold medallist Kerri Pottharst will lead the Australian Uniroos at the 2015 Summer Universiade in Gwangju, Korea, in an announcement marking 100 days to go to the Games.
Morgan-Brett will lead the team as Chef de Mission whilst Pottharst will add her considerable experience to the Australian Uniroos in her role as peak performance mentor.
The 28th Summer Universiade (Olympic Games for students) will be held from the 3rd-14th July and feature 21 sports with 20,000 athletes and officials from 170 countries. It is expected that Australian University Sport will confirm a team of around 200 to represent Australia.
Currently CEO of Activate UTS and a Board Director of Australian University Sport, Morgan-Brett played volleyball for Australia in Sydney and has led the development of a range of student services at UTS including the elite athlete program that delivered seven athletes onto the Australian Olympic team in London.
Morgan-Brett was a member of the team executive in Kazan, Russia two years ago and is now looking forward to leading the team in Korea. Having played sport at the highest level whilst pursuing tertiary education, she understands the pressure the athletes are under and also the opportunity the Games present for aspiring Rio Olympians.
“The Universiade is a great opportunity for student athletes to compete at the elite level in a multi-sport event on a grand scale,” Morgan-Brett said.
“The Universiade is the only multi-sport competition that prepares athletes for the scale of the Olympics, so it is a crucial component of the pathway to the Rio Olympics. With 20,000 athletes and officials and 21 sports it’s something the Commonwealth Games can’t replicate in terms of sheer size and distractions that take place around the village. Single sport world championships certainly have their own pressures, but perhaps not the distractions.”
“So it’s a wonderful opportunity and in itself the world class quality of the competition is something that provides a real challenge for our athletes,” Morgan-Brett added.
Pottharst is an Australian sporting legend who last year was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Alongside Natalie Cook, Pottharst produced one of the most dramatic moments of the Sydney Games to win gold on Bondi beach. A triple Olympian and dual medallist, Pottharst now coaches, commentates and inspires people from all walks of life through her presentations and motivational workshops.
She sees her role in the team as being there to help in whatever way she can.
“I’ve been in their shoes and shared their experiences, so I’m there as a support mechanism. I’m there if they need someone to talk to. Of course they have their coach and their teammates around them, but I’m there… that’s my job,” Pottharst said.
Now a regular in the commentary box at major championships, this will be Pottharst’s first experience in a team performance role, however it’s the area where she spends most of her time in her own business.
“When I retired I wrote a book called ‘The Business of being an athlete’ and I’ve always had a big interest in elite performance. My job won’t be to tell them how to do their sport, it will be that last little bit that comes with preparing and performing in a major championships,” Pottharst said.
Australian University Sport CEO Don Knapp said with 100 days to go to the Games the selection trials for many sports were about to commence.
“Athletics and swimming trials will be held over the next few weeks, with both held in conjunction with the national championships, and they will be followed by trials and selection camps in many sports, so it’s a crucial time for those athletes with their sights set on Gwangju.”
“Liz and Kerri will join our sport leaders and Australian University Sport staff in providing the best possible environment for our athletes to perform and make the most of competing in the second largest international multi-sport event,” Knapp said.
About the Universiade
International university sport has witnessed the emergence of a huge number of Australian world championship, Commonwealth Games and Olympic champions including Cate Campbell (swimming) Ralph Doubell (athletics), Brooke Hanson (swimming), Steve Hooker (athletics), Steve Moneghetti (athletics), Jon Sieben (swimming) and Michelle Timms (basketball).
Australia first competed at a Summer Universiade in Tokyo, Japan in 1967 and has been involved in every event since that year excluding 1975 in Rome, Italy. During that time Australian athletes have amassed a total of 134 medals (41 gold, 37 silver and 56 bronze). At the last edition in Kazan, Russia, the Uniroos won six gold, four silver and six bronze medals to equal the best ever medal haul also achieved in 2011 in Shenzhen, China.
Universiade records in most sports, including track and field and swimming, surpass those of the Commonwealth Games, and provides the perfect development competition on the road to the Olympic Games. Coming just twelve months prior to the Rio Olympics, Gwangju will be an ideal stepping stone for Australia’s Rio aspirants.
To be eligible to participate in the Universiade, athletes should be undergraduate or graduate students between the ages of 17 and 28 or have graduated in the year immediately preceding the year of the event.
Team selection trials in the most part coincide with the national championships for most sports including athletics (26-29 March in Brisbane), swimming (3-10 April in Sydney), artistic and rhythmic gymnastics (18-30 May in Melbourne).
The Australian Uniroos will travel to Gwangju with the support of the Australian Sports Commission and the national federations of the 21 participating sports. The Universiade is a key part of Australia’s Winning Edge program, designed to deliver sustained international sporting success.
photos Janos Schmidt