Incoming student and elite para-athlete18-year-old Rowan Crothers has been awarded the first Griffith University and Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Sporting Excellence Scholarship, worth approximately $70,000.

Rowan, a graduate of St Laurence’s College, South Brisbane who won gold in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in the 100m freestyle, started studying a Bachelor of Public Relations and Communications at Griffith this year.

Rowan also has Cerebral Palsy and Chronic Lung Disease, which he developed as a result of being born 15 weeks prematurely. He is a Youth Ambassador for the Cerebral Palsy League.

He made his international swimming debut as a 13-year-old at the 2011 Arafura Games, where he won a bronze medal in the Men’s 400m MC freestyle and broke four Australian National Age Records.

While Rowan’s Cerebral Palsy affects the efficiency of his kick, he has worked consistently on perfecting a propulsion style to make the most out of the leg strength and coordination he has.

He said he has never let his disability hold him back from achieving his dreams.

“Winning a gold medal at the last Commonwealth Games was the highlight of my sporting career, not just for the medal but for the experience of taking part in a fully inclusive sporting team on the world stage,” he said.

“My wish is that in the future there will be more opportunities for this kind of inclusiveness and hopefully the skills I gain studying at Griffith will also help me promote the positive outcomes for communities gained by creating these kinds of inclusive events.”

Rowan said this scholarship would allow him focus on his studies and demanding training schedule without worrying about the extra burden of costs associated with studying.

The Sport Excellence Scholarship was open to commencing students in any study area who are considered elite athletes, in recognition of their sporting excellence.

Six more scholarships opportunities will become available for students in the lead up to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. An additional category, the Griffith University and Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Scholarship, is open to eligible commencing students undertaking study or research in a sport or event related area.

Students must be from a Commonwealth country, including Australia, to apply. Each scholarship includes full tuition fee waiver, accommodation and a contribution towards education expenses. The value of each scholarship will vary depending on the degree of study but on average is worth approximately $70,000 each.

Griffith University Vice Chancellor and President Professor Ian O’Connor said the University was proud to offer the first of the University’s legacy scholarships to Rowan.

“These Scholarships have the potential to transform the lives and ambitions of the recipients,” he said.

“As a leading university on the Gold Coast we are dedicated to fostering opportunities and extending possibilities for our students.

“Rowan and other future recipients have so much to gain from this truly unprecedented opportunity and I look forward to following their journeys with us.”

Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation (GOLDOC) Chairman Nigel Chamier AM, applauded the announcement of the first scholarship and noted how fitting it was that a para-athlete was the recipient in the Commonwealth’s year of ‘An Inclusive Commonwealth’.

“This is a very exciting announcement for a shining star of Australia’s para-athlete team and I am delighted that Rowan will be studying with Griffith University where he will enjoy a great learning environment and the flexibility to continue training for international swimming competition.

“The partnership between Griffith University and GC2018 is off to a flying start with several Griffith interns and graduates now working alongside the team at GOLDOC to help deliver the biggest event this country will see in well over a decade,” Mr Chamier said.