Griffith Occupational Therapy student and arguably Australia’s fastest racewalker at the moment, Katie Hayward, is counting down to the start of the 20km walk at the World University Games in Italy.

The 18 year old readily admits her preparation has been better than expected and with the Tokyo Olympics just around the corner she has all but secured her spot on the Australian team.

“I haven’t missed one session, I’m not even exaggerating. It’s been a great preparation,” she said before flying out to Naples in Italy.

“I couldn’t have asked for anything more. The competition times that I have been doing in races have been really shocking for me.

“I came first in Sydney at Australian open national titles in 10km there, (which was) a meet record and early in February I broke the under 20’s 20km record and won the opens and became the fastest Aussie on home soil to do that. So, it’s been a very exciting year!”

Katie’s looking forward to the World Uni Games for several reasons, but most important of which is the fact it is the closest experience to an Olympic Games an athlete can have.

“All the athletes I have talked to say it’s practically just under an Olympics games,” she said.

“You’ve got your athletes village and you’ve got multiple sports, you’ve got swimming and gymnastics, rugby, volleyball, all the sports so it’s a whole experience like the Olympic games.

“So as much as I want to go out and do well, it’s the experience (I’m excited about), if I do get selected for the Olympics I know what to expect.”

Olympic gold medallist and manager of Griffith Sports College, Naomi McCarthy, is among the speakers at the 2017 Future Leaders Retreat.

Olympic gold medallist and Griffith Sports College Manager, Naomi McCarthy OAM

Its a sentiment echoed by Griffith Sports College Manager and Olympic Gold medallist herself Naomi McCarthy OAM, who says Katie is in top form.

“It is well recognised that this is one of the few multi sport events that simulates or represents what it is like in an Olympic games village…. and those athletes selected are all developing athletes looking to go on to Olympic games representation,” said Naomi.

“The College has been really excited to help her and watch her develop from a junior athlete into the country’s number 1 senior race walker.

“She’s had an absolute breakout year. She has surprised herself with how well she has gone.”

Olympic selections are announced next February and Katie says while that is top of mind, she’s also mindful of her study commitments and the importance of taking time out as well.

“As athletes we are not robots, we need to recharge and reset. can’t just keep going. Its not just the body its also mental.”

Currently in her second year of Occupational Therapy, Griffith Sports College helped Katie navigate an individualised path allowing her the time to train and compete and study.

She’ll complete second and third years part-time but remains committed to her course of study, because more than anyone, she knows how it feels when you can’t do what you want to.

“Four years ago I had a major stress fracture where I was out for a couple of months, well 6 months from my sport.

“When you stop doing what you love so much, it really makes a person feel down. And so when I see people out in the world that might have had a stroke or something has happened in their lives ….. I can relate to that…I want to help people because I know what it feels to not be able to do what you want to do in your lives. And I know how much it means to them.”

Other Griffith athletes joining Katie in Naples include sprinter Riley Day, discus thrower Matthew Denny and swimmers Grayson Bell, Charles Cox, Chelsea Hodges, Tristan Ludlow, Mikayla Messer, Joshua Parrish and Alice Stuart. Jessica Borg and Presley Johnson will compete in taekwondo and Sophie Milliken in water polo.

“We are very pleased with the number of athletes that have achieved representation,” said Naomi McCarthy.

“A lot of athletes have been working very hard to make this team.”