Thirty-four of the nation’s best emerging athletes, including five current Australian champions, will take to the World Cup Stadium in Gwangju when five days of athletics competition kicks off on Wednesday.
The Summer Universiade has launched the careers of an abundance of track and field stars including Olympic champions Shirley Strickland, Ralph Doubell and Steve Hooker. Athletics has collected thirteen gold medals since Doubell opening the account in 800m in Tokyo in 1967, a year before his Olympic triumph in the Mexico.
Featuring four IAAF world championships bound athletes, Michelle Jenneke (100m hurdles), Rachel Tallent (20km walk), Nicholas Hough (110m hurdles) and Dane Bird-Smith (20km walk), the Uniroos will take on athletes from more than 120 nations.
The strong University of Sydney athletics program will have eight representatives in the team, including Jenneke who is studying for a Bachelor of Mechatronics (a combination of mechanical and electrical engineering). The 21-year-old became the second fastest Australian hurdler of all time in finishing second behind Sally Pearson in Brisbane.
A youth Olympics silver medalist and the youngest competitor in the 2014 Commonwealth Games 100m hurdles final where she finished fifth, Jenneke has her eyes firmly focused on the world championships in Beijing next month.
“I’ve had a couple of races but they weren’t quite as fast as I would have wanted them to be. I’m feeling really good though and had a good session yesterday (Sunday) and I’m feeling a lot faster so hopefully I can do something good out there,” Jenneke said from the athlete’s village.
“My goal is to run a personal best time whilst overseas. I’ve got this competition, I go home for a couple of weeks and then a couple of races in Europe, one in Japan and then the world champs.”
Jenneke, who got a major confidence boost from her Commonwealth Games experience said she was amazed at how big the University Games is.
“It’s pretty crazy how many athletes are here and meeting everyone from different sports. The whole team environment has been really good, everyone’s very supportive,” she said.
Hough, who is studying a combined degree of Bachelor of Information Technology and Bachelor of Laws at the University of Sydney, has been busy in the lead up to the Games, launching his own business, GradeProof, a proofreading app that allows students to fast track editing assignments.
Hough has a six week campaign into the world championships, which includes heading to Europe next week, so has raced only sparingly with two runs in Sydney leading into Gwangju.
“This will be my first major competition leading up to the world champs, so I’m hoping I can pull out something good, make the final and pull out a medal,” Hough said of his competition starting on Friday.
Hough says the experience from Commonwealth Games will help, both here and at the world titles.
“The main think I learnt was that rankings don’t mean anything. I was ranked 15th and came fourth, so I’m not even worried about the rankings for world unis or world champs – just come out and ran as fast as I can.”
Hough is one of four athletes returning for their second Universiade, he reached the semi-finals of the 100m and 200m in 2013, a feat achieved by his mother Sue who reached the semis of both events at the 1987 Games in Zagreb, Yugoslavia.
Queensland sprinter Tom Gamble, Deakin University 400m runner Alex Carew and University of Sydney discus thrower Alix Kennedy also competed in Kazan, Russia in 2013.
Walker Dane Bird-Smith is a rising name in Australian athletics seeking to continue the recent successes of Nathan Deakes and Jared Tallent at international level.
The 22-year-old finished 11th in the world championships in Moscow two years ago, but missed the Commonwealth Games when the walks were removed from the program. He has already improved his personal best in 2015 and will be one to watch in the steamy conditions in Gwangju.
“Gwangju is a great lead up to Beijing, giving me six weeks after racing there to refocus on the big championship of the year. I want to make a splash at the Universiade, walking away with a new personal best or a medal,” Bird-Smith told Athletics Australia.
“Moscow was my debut and a huge accomplishment to finish 11th. Less than a year later I’d improved my PB by nearly two minutes and in this season I have found a new pace that should mean I don’t back down when the other boys bring the speed.”
Josh Harris (University or Tasmania) will make his Australian debut in the half marathon having clocked a new personal best of 1:05:51 at the Gold Coast Marathon last year.
At the 2013 edition in Kazan, Ian Dewhurst (NSW) won the only medal for the athletics team in the men’s 400m hurdles. Two years earlier in Shenzhen the track and field squad won two medals. Lachlan Renshaw (NSW) delivered gold in the 800m, while Sean Wroe (Vic) was third in the men’s 400m.
With entry lists still unknown, making any predictions about the success of the team in Gwangju would require Nostradamus-esq capabilities.
With thanks to David Culbert, for Australian Uniroos Media
WORLD UNIVERSITY GAMES
Gwangju, South Korea
Athletics: 8-12 July 2015
MEN (23 athletes):
100m: Tom Gamble (University of Queensland, Qld), Jin Su Jung (University of Sydney, NSW)
200m: Ben Jaworski (University of Western Sydney, NSW), Andrew McCabe (Queensland University of Technology, Qld)
400m: Alex Beck (Bond University, Qld)
800m: Timas Harik (Melbourne Polytechnic Institute of Tafe, Vic)
1500m: Adrian Plummer (University of Technology Sydney, NSW), James Hansen (Deakin University, Vic)
5000m: Stewart McSweyn (La Trobe University, Vic)
110m hurdles: Nicholas Hough (University of Sydney, NSW)
Pole vault: Angus Armstrong (University of Sydney, NSW)
Long jump: Angus Gould (Australian National University, ACT), Nicholas Van Gelder (University of Sydney, NSW)
Discus throw: Matthew Denny (Griffith University, Qld)
Decathlon: David Brock (RMIT, Vic), Kyle Cranston (Australian Catholic University, NSW)
Half-marathon: Josh Harris (University of Tasmania, Tas)
20km walk: Dane Bird-Smith (University of Queensland, Qld), Rhydian Cowley (Deakin Univeristy, Vic)
4x100m relay: Hugh Donovan (Queensland University of Technology, Qld), Tom Gamble (University of Queensland, Qld), Nicholas Hough (University of Sydney, NSW), Ben Jaworski (University of Western Sydney, NSW), Jin Su Jung (University of Sydney, NSW), Andrew McCabe (Queensland University of Technology, Qld)
4x400m relay: Alex Beck (Bond University, Qld), Alexander Carew (Deakin University, Vic) Deluca Lawson-Matthew (University of Melbourne, Vic), Raymond Smith (University of New South Wales, NSW)
WOMEN (11 athletes):
100m: Ashleigh Whittaker (Deakin University, Vic)
200m: Ashleigh Whittaker (Deakin University, Vic)
100m hurdles: Michelle Jenneke (University of Sydney, NSW), Abbie Taddeo (ACPE, NSW)
High jump: Nicola McDermott (University of Sydney, NSW)
Long jump: Naa Anang (Queensland University of Technology, Qld)
Discus throw: Alix Kennedy (University of Sydney, NSW), Taryn Gollshewsky (Central Queensland University, Qld)
Hammer throw: Lara Nielsen (University of Southern Queensland, Qld)
20km walk: Rachel Tallent (University of Canberra, Vic), Stephanie Stigwood (University of Tasmania, Tas, NSW), Nicole Fagan (University of Sydney, NSW)
SUMMER UNIVERSIADE MEDALLISTS - ATHLETICS
Ralph Doubell, 800m (1967 Tokyo)
Shaun Creighton, 3000m Steeplechase (1991 Sheffield)
Alison Inverarity, High Jump (1991 Sheffield)
Jane Jamieson, Heptathlon (1995 Fukuoka)
Emma George, Pole Vault (1997 Sicily)
Jane Jamieson, Heptathlon (2001 Beijing)
Eloise Poppett, 5000m (2003 Daegu)
Kylie Wheeler, Heptathlon (2003 Daegu)
Sean Wroe, 400m (2007 Bangkok)
Robert Crowther, Long Jump (2007 Bangkok)
Dani Samuels, Discus (2009 Belgrade)
Madeleine Pape, 800m (2009 Belgrade)
Tristan Thomas, Sean Wroe, Brendan Cole, Chris Troode, Clay Watkins, John Burstow, 4x400m Relay (2009 Belgrade)
Grahame Taylor, Long Jump (1967 Tokyo)
Judy Canty, 400m (1973 Moscow)
David Evans, 5000m (1991 Sheffield)
Dean Kenneally, 800m (1991 Sheffield)
Clinton Hill, 400m (2001 Beijing)
Jane Jamieson, Hepthatlon (2003 Daegu)
Victoria Mitchell, 3000m Steeplechase (2005 Izmir)
Grant Dylan, Mark Ormrod, Tristan Thomas, Sean Wroe, Joel Milburn, 4x400m Relay (2007 Bangkok)
Dani Samuels, Discus (2007 Bangkok)
Kaila McKnight, 800m (2009 Belgrade)
Biruta Vilmanis, 400m (1967 Tokyo)
Phillip King, Ralph Doubell, Greg Lewis, Peter Griffith Athletics 4x400m Relay (1967 Tokyo)
Andrew Jachno, 20km Walk (1989 Duisburg)
Jane Flemming, Heptathlon (1989 Duisburg)
Simon Doyle, 800m (1989 Duisburg)
Debbie Sosimenko, Hammer Throw (1997 Sicily)
Clare Thompson, Heptathlon (1999 Palma de Mallorca)
Jacqui Munro, 100m Hurdles (2001 Beijing)
Sonia Brito, 400m Hurdles (2001 Beijing)
William Hamlyn-Harris, Javelin (2003 Daegu)
Lachlan Renshaw, 800m (2011, Shenzen)