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When most of us think of the Gold Coast we picture the beach, great weather and theme parks. This article isn’t about most of us though, it’s about University of Sydney athletes who are finalising their selection before booking their Commonwealth Games ticket up north.

The 21st Commonwealth Games are almost upon us, with the Opening Ceremony set for April 4, 2018. University of Sydney athletes are pulling out all stops as they strive for peak form and selection for what is a rare and exciting opportunity to perform before huge home crowds at a major international competition.

This will be only the fifth time Australia has hosted this prestigious multi-sport event since its inception in 1930, then known as the Empire Games. It is mind-boggling to reflect on the fact that one of our finest athletes Belinda Snell, Captain of the Brydens Sydney Uni Flames women’s basketball team, competed in Melbourne 2006 and is hell-bent on selection in 2018, 12 years on.

As a preview, we cast our eye over some of the Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness (SUSF) athletes daring to fulfil their dreams as part of the mighty Australian team.

NICHOLAS HOUGH | ATHLETICS

Sydney University Athletics Club (SUAC) 2017 Athlete of the Year, Nick Hough, looks primed to do serious damage on the Gold Coast in the 110m hurdles. At 16 years of age Hough entered international competition with a bang at the 2010 Youth Olympics, claiming gold in the 110m Hurdles. While just missing selection for Rio, Hough rebounded, making the Australian team for the 2017 London Athletics World Championships. Indeed 2017 was Hough’s year in the high hurdles as he achieved a number of Qualifying Commonwealth Games times with a succession of barnstorming runs on the European summer circuit. A likeable and imposing figure on the track, standing 191cm, Hough graduated with a Bachelor of Information Technology (Honours) from Sydney University in 2017. Hough placed 4th in the 100m Hurdles final at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and would like nothing better than to stand on the podium at the Gold Coast.

Selection confirmed. 

MICHELLE JENNEKE | ATHLETICS

Fearless and fun-loving both describe Michelle Jenneke who is vying for selection in the notoriously technical 100m Hurdles. Studying a Bachelor of Engineering in Mechatronics at Sydney University, Jenneke rose to prominence through silver at the 2010 Youth Olympics where so many current SUAC stars achieved their first international selection, followed by 5th at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and two subsequent World Championship semi-final appearances. Jenneke has an A-qualifying time under the magic 13 seconds and sits second behind Sally Pearson in the qualification period. Current SUAC team captain, Jenneke is a star performer off the track too with her vivacious personality, passion and generosity, using her profile to help various charities and causes.

Selection confirmed. 

KANE TOWNSEND | TABLE TENNIS

Attack and if that doesn’t work, attack some more is a great motto for an elite Table Tennis player and Kane Townsend epitomises that approach and consistently so against topflight competitors. Not a probable, Townsend is selected in the 12 member 2018 Commonwealth Games Australian Table Tennis Team on the strength of his results, particularly when it mattered at the 2018 Australian Commonwealth Games qualifying tournament on the Gold Coast in mid-January. No stranger to this level of tournament, the left-handed Townsend reached the quarter-finals at Glasgow in 2014. Townsend, who will turn 25 years old during the Commonwealth Games, first started playing table tennis as a five-year-old, with both parents playing at the national level and starting a table tennis club when he was four. If that isn’t enough table tennis DNA in one family, Townsend’s older brother Wade is also one of Australia’s leading competitors. More than ably juggling academic pursuit with sport, Townsend was jointly awarded the USYD School of Mathematics and Statistics, George Allen Scholarship for Pure Mathematics.

Selection confirmed. 

ANNELIESE RUBIE | ATHLETICS

With a Rio Olympics (individual semi-finalist and relay finalist) in the women’s 400m, plus three World Championships and the 2014 Commonwealth Games listed among her extensive sporting achievements, it’s safe to say Anneliese (Annie) Rubie knows her way round an athletics track. Having a serious tilt at the 800m distance in recent times, Rubie should have the speed and strength to carry her right to the Gold Coast finish line of the 400m in the green and gold. Regularly supported by family at Athletics NSW meets, Rubie is another committed SUAC member always ready to front up for her club. Knocking on the Gold Coast selection door, Rubie ripped out a 52.17 in Sydney on December 16, 2017, an agonising seven-onehundredths of one-second off an A qualifying time. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts at Sydney University last year, Rubie is a hugely popular and humble athlete with a steely inner drive.

Selection confirmed. 

BELINDA SNELL | BASKETBALL

Current Captain of the Brydens Sydney Uni Flames and long-term Australian women’s basketball star, Belinda Snell is hoping to make the Opals team for the Commonwealth Games. While the final squad selection is still to play out, Snell, along with fellow Flames playmaker Katie-Rae Ebzery has been selected for the Opals first training camp in February. A guard and forward, Snell is a bona-fide legend of Australian women’s basketball. You couldn’t meet a more humble and chilled person off the court but come game time she is all business with a level of competitiveness only found among the best of the best. Snell was born in the year the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) was formed and while unknown at the time this was a clear pointer to her destiny. Snell surged to prominence as part of the WNBL Championship AIS team in 1998-99, alongside such luminaries as Lauren Jackson, Penny Taylor and Suzy Batkovic. Snell has done it all and more, representing the Opals at the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and World Championships and was named the University of Sydney Female Blue of the Year for 2017, as Captain of the Flames 2016-17 Championship side. Snell never backs away from a challenge, also completing a Graduate Certificate in Educational Studies (Sports Coaching).

ROHAN BROWNING | ATHLETICS

SUAC has a great history of producing ‘fast as the wind’ sprinters and excitement is building that we have another100m and 200m speed demon in Rohan Browning. Browning is part of a wave of male sprinters, including Jack Hale and Trae Williams, and is glad for the competition and comradery. Fellow SUAC sprinter Josh Clarke is also well and truly in the mix. As at February 5, 2018, Browning had posted the fastest Australian100m qualifying time, running a blistering 10.19 in Brisbane last December. Browning then took out the ACT 100m Men’s Championship in January, in a major showdown with Hale and Williams. In a photo finish Browning was awarded the title, clocking 10.225. If Browning continues to progress an individual berth at the Games is well within his grasp. While we have only been able to feature a handful of 2018 Commonwealth Games hopefuls, we are upbeat that a large contingent of University of Sydney sports stars will be selected for our country in a number of sports. Please join us in wishing the very best to all contenders in their final preparations and for selection.

DID YOU KNOW…

Australia has been represented at all 20 Commonwealth Games contested prior to 2018 and is the top nation on the all-time medal tally with 2,218 medals, ahead of England on 2,008, followed by Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa. The Games have also proven a happy-hunting ground for Sydney University representatives. A record 17 academic-athletes competed at the last Games in Glasgow four years ago. Seven Sydney University athletes competed with distinction at Delhi in 2010, picking up five gold, seven silver and one bronze. On home soil in Melbourne 2006, Sydney University’s seven Australian representatives came away with six medals. Without doubt, the mix of training and study is a proven winner for our elite athletes.

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