Elite athletes shine on world stage

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The success of the Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness (SUSF) Elite Athlete Program (EAP) has never been more evident than at the 27th Summer Universiade – the second-largest sporting event in the world by participation – where four scholarship holders won medals that propelled Australia to a top 10 finish.

From July 6-17 Sydney University were represented by 17 male and female athletes at the Summer Universiade, also known as the World University Games – in Kazan, Russia – 10 of whom were EAP scholarship holders.

The 17, who included scholarship holders, SUSF club representatives and University of Sydney students, represented Australia in athletics, badminton, basketball, fencing, rhythmic gymnastics, swimming and water polo. Competing against them were over 10,400 university athletes from 162 countries across 27 sports, making the 2013 Universiade the biggest in the history of the event.

Katie-Rae Ebzery, studying a Bachelor of Education: HMHE at The University of Sydney, starred for the Australian women’s basketball team who bounced back from a devastating one point loss to eventual gold medallists USA in their semi-final, to claim bronze after an emphatic victory against Chinese Taipei by 49 points.

Playing 22 minutes per game throughout the Emerging Opals six games, Ebzery’s stats were fantastic. She averaged 9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and one steal, as the Australian’s racked up an average winning margin of 36 points against Hungary, China, Finland, Canada and Chinese Taipei.

It was the Sydney Uni Flames guard’s second consecutive Summer Universiade bronze medal (Ebzery took home bronze from the 2011 Shenzhen Games), but it hasn’t made this medal any less sweet.

“It was amazing to win the bronze medals playoff,” said an excited Ebzery, who is making massive inroads into achieving her dream of making her full senior Opals team debut.

“The team played awesome all tournament and we were relentless in all the games we played. It’s always heartbreaking to lose a semi-final by one point, but to bounce back and win the bronze medal by such a large margin was very satisfying.”

In the sport of athletics, it was Sydney University Athletics Club (SUAC) sprinter Ian Dewhurst (49.89) who stole the show, breaking the club record in the semi-finals of the 400m hurdles. Dewhurst was scintillating again in the final, utilising his big, long stride in the final 100m to finish with bronze behind Slovakia’s Martin Kucera, who broke the Universiade record, and Senegal’s Amadou Ndiaye.

SUAC Director of Coaching Dean Gleeson watched all of the Dewhurst’s performances at the Games, including his sixth place finish in 4x400m relay, and was pleased with what he saw. “When they hit the straight (in the individual 400m hurdles) there were six or seven guys who could have won the race and he finished extremely strongly,” Gleeson said of the Masters of Physiotherapy student.

“As a former distance runner he is a great finisher because he is so aerobically strong. And 49.89sec places him among the top international players. This is a good stepping stone for him to push for a Commonwealth Games medal (next year). He is a quality big race performer.”

Sydney University’s EAP swimmers were not immune from making a real splash in the pool, with SUSFand NSWIS SwimmingProgram of Excellence squad members Andrew Abood and Hayley White achieving podium finishes at the Kazan Aquatics Palace.

Coached by Grant Stoelwinder and Scott Talbot, who were at the Games as coaches of the Australian team, Abood won silver in the men’s 4x100m freestyle relay and White finished with bronze in the women’s 200m backstroke.

Abood was extremely unlucky not to pick up two additional medals in the blue-ribbon individual 50m and 100m freestyle events.

The NSW North Coast junior, who lives with his brother and fellow swimmer Matt, was touched out in the final of the 50m freestyle by the Ukraine’s Andrii Govorov (22.17) by 0.01 of a second. In the 100m freestyle Abood once again finished fourth, by 0.06sec, this time to Italy’s Michelle Santucci (49.30). His final act of the Games was a brilliant swim in the freestyle leg of the 4x100m medley relay where Australia finished fifth. 

Completing the swimming household in Rose Bay is backstroker White, the fiancée of Matt Abood, who competed at the FINA World Championships in Spain in late July.

White, one of the country’s most improved swimmers in recent times, swam her fastest 200m backstroke race this year (2:09.84), when narrowly beaten by fellow Australian Madison Wilson (2:09.22) and Daryna Zevina (2:09.41) from the Ukraine.

The Bachelor of Human Movement and Health Education student at the University of Sydney was very competitive in her other events – 4x100m medley relay (fifth), 100m backstroke (sixth) and 50m backstroke (13th). 

Ebzery, Dewhurst, Abood and White all contributed to the Australian Uniroos 10th place finish at the July’s Summer Universiade which included six gold, four silver and six bronze medals. It’s to be noted that if the University of Sydney were to be judged as its own nation at the Games, it would have finished in equal 46th position on the medal tally with Bulgaria and Jamaica.