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   Jul 05

Athletes snapping at chance

Brian Roe. THE 2015 Summer Universiade is under way in Gwangju, South Korea, and nearly 100 years after the concept was first tested, Australia is beginning to take the event, more commonly known as the World University Games, seriously.
Nanjing Night Net

And eight Tasmanians – seven athletes and medical staffer Kate Moore – are part of the action as members of the 255-strong Uniroos Team, which is participating in 16 of the 21 sports on offer.

The highest-profile among them is basketballer Hugh Greenwood, who has been a talking point within his sport for opting to participate in the Games rather than the influential Summer League in the United States, where he is on a basketball scholarship at the University of New Mexico.

But there is good reason for Greenwood to have made the call.

Basketball Australia is clearly placing some significance on the Games with both Boomers and Opals head coaches at the helm for the tournament.

And why not? The competition is of high quality and provides a great opportunity for the national high performance program to assess the next generation in a pressure-cooker situation.

Water polo, another team sport in which Australia does well, is taking a similar approach.

Eight years after his international debut, Taylor Wilczynski (single sculls in rowing) continues in his international career, while 18-year-old pistol shooter Bailey Groves embarks on his.

The remaining four are all in athletics. James Hansen (1500m), Josh Harris (half marathon), Stuart McSweyn (5000m) and Steph Stigwood (20km race walk) are taking advantage of the significant platform the Games provides for the next step up in international experience.

In athletics, the Universiade has had a mixed history.

Before 1981, when there were no world championships in track and field, the Games were of enormous significance, even in the 1950s when there were two rival versions – one based on Eastern Europe and its allies and the other for the West.

And then until the previous edition in Kazan in Russia, there was a period when the Games clashed with the world championships, making participation in both near impossible in most events and reducing the status of the student-based competition.

Now there is the possibility to do both – an opportunity seized by some Aussie rising stars such as hurdlers Nick Hough and Michelle Jenneke to get the chance to run the rounds before their first world championships in Beijing in August.

It’s a pathway that Ralph Doubell very successfully followed during Australia’s first Universiade participation in 1967, picking up the gold in Tokyo ahead of his superb victory in the rarefied air of the Mexico City Olympics a year later.

But where these Games are of perhaps greatest significance for Australia is in those sports in which we struggle to qualify a team or many individual places for the Olympics – such as fencing, volleyball and men’s gymnastics.

At the same time, they are providing more opportunities for women’s gymnastics as careers now commonly extend well beyond the mid-teenage years.

It’s a pity that while we could watch the European Games on Australian free-to-air television, an event in which we do not participate, we don’t have the chance to see 200 of our finest proudly wear the green and gold.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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