Sprint cyclist and Griffith criminology and criminal justice student Stephanie Morton returned to competition in Brisbane over the weekend and collected valuable qualification points at the UCI Track Cycling World Cup.
The 29 year old said she was really happy with her performance, exceeding her expectations with three medals in the team, individual and keirin events.
“I wasn’t too sure coming in, had a bit of a rough off season with knee surgery but managed to go through pain free, (and) medal in all my individual events,” she explained.
“It’s pretty special. We don’t have many dress rehearsals before the Tokyo Olympics so to be able to do one here on home soil is amazing.
“The last time we were here was for the Commonwealth Games so to be able to come back out and know the roar of the crowd is for you, is really exciting!”
Griffith Sports College Manager Naomi McCarthy OAM was also pretty excited about getting the chance to present Morton with Griffith University’s Most Outstanding Sporting Achievement in 2019 award.
The award was jointly bestowed on Morton and freestyle swimmer Emma McKeon last month but the cyclist was unable to attend the Blues Awards event at Nathan due to training commitments at her home base in Adelaide with the Australian track cycling team.
The judging panel said it was a tough decision to award the title to just one athlete as there were many great results in 2019.
“We’ve got the world championships in February so we’ll go home, back to training, get ready for that, and then its just one final big push so lots of training, tactics, skills a lot of work with the psychologist as well,” she said.
“Going into a Olympic games is quite mentally exhausting as well as physically exhausting. Just like physical training its something you can practice and get better at.”
It’s not all work and no play though.
“Have fun! You’ve got to remember you’re out here in front of a home crowd, family and friends, have fun but get the job done.”
In her limited downtime Morton is halfway through a criminology and criminal justice degree at Griffith.
“I think being an elite athlete, it’s easy to get caught in the bubble of elite athlete life and not think about life after sport,” she reflected.
“I study online so its so manageable you can start a lecture, pause it and come back to it two days later if you need to.
“I want to be a police officer when I finish so I decided to study criminology. Looking around who offered criminology Griffith was by far just the most impressive program.
“I’m halfway through my degree now. I just do one subject at a time. I think its important to have something away from sport, something that you’re interested in.
“Criminology has always been a huge interest of mine so to be able to switch off away from cycling, away from the intense pressure and actually just learn and do something that’s going to help me afterwards (is great), because unfortunately we can’t live this life forever and you do have to think about life after sport.
Policing may just be a natural fit for Morton after cycling, who says she is looking forward to being out in the community, helping people at a time of need and problem solving.
“Being an elite athlete, we’re quite high profile within the community so I think to continue being a positive role model and mix with members of the community and just help out is something I’ve always been interested in.”
But she’s a long way from retirement just yet. After Tokyo she may have another Olympics in her sights, with world championships and the 2022 Commonwealth Games along the way.
“I’ll just see what happens after Tokyo. I’m lucky in that I have options, physically I could definitely go another cycle if I wanted to, if not, I’m halfway through a degree so that’s also something I could pick up.”
Steph’s track record
She won Paralympic gold as a pilot rider for visually impaired cyclist Felicity Johnson at London 2012, and nabbed two medals at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Then Anna Meares retired and Morton really shone.
She won two silver medals at the 2017 world championships, one silver in 2018, and gold and silver at this year’s edition. She also collected three gold medals and a silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.