Griffith students shine as curtain falls on Rio

Olympic beach volleyball player Louise Bawden

Griffith University went into the 2016 Rio Olympics with the biggest contingent of students and alumni of any Australian university to compete against the best in the world.

As the flame was extinguished on the 2016 Rio Olympics, Griffith Sports College heralded a strong sporting performance by all 24 athletes beyond the 11 medals awarded to six of them.

Emma McKeon was the most successful Griffith athlete to come back from the Games with a medal haul of one gold, two silver and a bronze.

“But the performances we’ve seen at Rio should not be judged solely on the medal count,” said Griffith Sports College Manager Naomi McCarthy.

“Many of the athletes either put in personal bests or gave some great individual and team performances as well.

“Nikita Pablo, for example, may not have medalled but she did really well in the team finals of the synchronised swimming in eighth position.

“We have to remember that this is not a sport that is funded as heavily as it is in other countries, and the team generally performed very well.”

Griffith Sports College Director Duncan Free OAM welcomes new manager Naomi McCarthy OAM to the team.
Griffith Sports College Director Duncan Free and Manager Naomi McCarthy.

According to Ms McCarthy (nee Castle), a two-time Olympian who won gold for Australia in water polo in Sydney, the next challenge for student athletes is to get back into a normalised study and work routine once they return from Rio.

“We’re expecting half of the students to come back to their studies while the rest will be taking a leave of absence,” she said.

“It will be a big change for all of them, coming off a high from being on the world stage.

“I found getting back to work was the best thing for me, so I think this will be a time for many of our athletes to decide on their sporting future.

“Some of the Griffith athletes have been recognised as stars of the future, so for them the desire to forge on for another four years will be strong.

“As far as the Griffith Sports College (GSC) is concerned we are very proud and happy with how the Griffith athletes and alumni represented Australia and themselves.”

GSC Director Duncan Free, a four-time Olympian, said it had been a big two weeks of elite sport performance from the Griffith community.

“We have really enjoyed watching the journey of our GSC athletes to compete in Rio,” he said.

“Now we look forward to watching our athletes’ sporting and education journey towards the 2018 Commonwealth Games and then onto the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”

The 24 Griffith University students and alumni are leaving Rio with three gold, four silver and four bronze between them, along with a world record for the women’s 4×100 swimming relay.

The final three days of competition saw Domonic Bedggood ranked 12th in the finals of the 10 metre platform diving.

Ashleigh Gentle came 26th in the women’s triathlon final, a little over five minutes off the gold medal pace.

Griffith Business graduate and Olympic marathon runner Michael Shelley
Griffith Business graduate and Olympic marathon runner Michael Shelley.

Alumnus Michael Shelley came 47th in the marathon in a time of 2:18.06, just 10 minutes off the gold medal pace.

Public Health student Emma McKeon enjoyed the biggest medal haul among the Griffith students, with a gold in the 4×100 relay with a new world record, a silver in the 4×100 medley relay, a silver in the 4x200m freestyle relay and a bronze in the 200m freestyle. She also came seventh in the 100m butterfly.

Social Work student Madi Wilson secured gold for her part in the 4×100 freestyle relay and a silver from the 4×100 medley relay heats.

Science student Cameron McEvoy won two bronze, one for the 4×100 freestyle relay and the other for the heat swim of the 4×100 medley relay. He placed seventh in the 100m freestyle final.

Alumnus Matt Abood scored a bronze in the men’s 4×100 freestyle relay as a heat swimmer.

Jess Ashwood (Bachelor of Criminology and Criminal Justice and Bachelor of Psychological Science) swam the heat and won silver in the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay. She also was ranked seventh in the women’s 400m freestyle final and fifth in the 800m freestyle final.

Alumna Shannon Parry won gold playing for Australia in the rugby sevens final.

Strong performances were also recorded by Jessica Hall (Psychological Science) andMadeleine Edmunds (Business) who were knocked out in the quadruple sculls after coming fifth in a tight finish of just .04 seconds behind the USA.

Water polo team members Ash Southern, Kelsey Wakefield and Bronwen Knox had a strong campaign but were just edged out in the quarter finals by Hungary in a penalty shootout. They ended in sixth place after a play-off with Spain.

Griffith University alumnus Shannon Perry is now a rugby sevens gold medal winner. Photo courtesy of ARU Media.
Griffith University alumna Shannon Perry is a rugby sevens gold medal winner. Photo courtesy of ARU Media.

In cycling, alumna Katrin Garfoot was hampered by a chest infection but still managed to finish ninth in the women’s time trial in wet and slippery conditions.

Alumna Louise Bawden made her mark in the beach volleyball, winning all of her preliminaries before being knocked out in the quarter finals after a tough match with the USA.

In the women’s kayak single K1 500, Naomi Flood finished sixth in her semi-final, and was ranked 18th in the overall standings.

In the kayak double K2 500, Bachelor of Communication graduate Alyce Burnett came third in her semi-final, and finished eighth in the final.

In the discus, Matt Denny ranked 19th in the qualification round, but failed to progress to the finals. However, his throw of 61.16 metres makes him Australia’s top discus athlete.

Tameka Butt, Elise Kellond-Knight and Clare Polkinghorne, competing in women’s football, made it to the quarter-finals, but a nil-all draw, a nail-biting extra time and subsequent penalty shootout with Brazil wasn’t enoughto progress them to the next round.

Adam Imer, representing Brazil in the hockey, had a tough run with Brazil losing all of its preliminary matches and failing to make it into the quarter finals.

With the Olympics over, the team at Griffith Sports College is now turning its attention to the Rio Paralympics, where seven Griffith University students and alumni are competing in September.

There will be three Griffith students and four alumni competing at the Paralympics including Rowan Crothers (swimming), Matt McShane (wheelchair basketball),David Edwards (cycling), Carlee Beattie (athletics), Jonathan Harris (sailing), Katie Kelly (triathlon) and Michael Anderson (swimming).