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Bitten by the sporting bug | UQ Sport

Bitten by the sporting bug | UQ Sport

Rise, run, rest, repeat - this is the life an elite athlete, up before the sun, and breaking a sweat at the gym while most of us are still tucked in bed.

While some consider devouring a family-sized block of chocolate an achievement worth Olympic glory, our EAFU and Sporting Scholarship athletes demonstrate unbelievable dedication and determination in their pursuit of greatness. 

These athletes don't just practice until they get it right - they practice until they can't get it wrong. Find out how these champions caught the sporting bug!

Gabi Simpson, Netball

Growing up, I was a sports fanatic. Up until I was 18, I competed in both netball and athletics at a national level, but chose to focus on netball because there is nothing more rewarding than empowering your team to work towards a common goal. When I got the call from the Queensland Firebirds coach offering me a position in the team, I was thrilled at the thought of doing what I love as a job. 

Jordan Lenac, Rugby Union

My family has always played rugby union – in fact my great grandfather was in the first British and Irish Lions rugby team to tour Australia. It was an incredible feeling earning a sport in the reduced Queensland Red 20's squad, motivating me to get a jump on pre-season for the Super 20's championship next year. I couldn’t imagine a better career than playing the sport I love where I can meet new people, and be exposed to incredible opportunities. 

Brenden Hall, Swimming

Belonging to a beach family, I was a water baby from a young age. Early on, I lost my leg and the majority of my hearing, but soon after, I was exposed to the Paralympics, and realised I could take my love of swimming to new heights. It became my dream at six years old to go on and represent my country and win a gold medal. I am loving every minute of it! 

Oliver Crane, Hockey

I originally started playing hockey when I was five years old down on the local grass fields with my parents and friends. At age 12, I started taking it seriously, but at the same time I was a very keen surfer, and was trying my hand in all kinds of football with my mates. Eventually I realised I couldn’t do everything, and found hockey was where my talent and passion lied. Later that year, I was scouted by Hockey Queensland, and haven’t looked back since!

Lauren McAdams, Athletics 400m & 400m hurdles

My sport chose me! In all the school sporting carnivals I competed in growing up, athletics was the only one I ever did any good in. I worked my way up through high school, making State Championships, then my first Queensland team, making finals and winning medals. At age 23, I made my first Australian team, and have been improving slowly but surely since then.

Bronte Jackson, Fencing

My mum insisted I try fencing in grade three, but but I wouldn’t have a bar of it! Ironically, I rediscovered it a few years later in high school during a sports induction week. It wasn’t until grade 11 that I decided to pursue fencing professionally. During a competition, my coach was giving me a few tips, then casually asked if I would be interested in joining his team to compete in Japan. I remember my mum and me sitting in complete shock for the rest of the day – we couldn’t believe I had been chosen! The next year I trained in Japan amongst Olympians at the Japanese Institute of Sport, and competed at the Tokyo Junior Olympic World Cup. I had already competed at state and national levels, but that experience was a game changer. I had never seen such dedication, passion and love for fencing – it has inspired me ever since.

Laura Clemesha, Netball

I initially didn’t have an interest in netball, but my high school sports coordinator suggested I go to the trials because of my height. I spent a year in the netball program at the AIS which was my first exposure to a daily training environment, giving me an insight into what life as a professional athlete was like. I'm now a Queensland Firebird and I love it! 

Michael Mercieca, Gymnastics

I chose my sport at five years old because I was an energetic pocket rocket, and good at cartwheels! My first National Championships at 10 years old is when I decided to pursue my sporting career, and take gymnastics seriously. I have now been involved in gymnastics for 20 years, and it is my goal to be the first Australian gymnast to win an Olympic medal.  

Annabella Sorby, Netball

Six year old me loved trying all new sports, and netball seemed particularly fun because all my friends got involved. I decided to pursue netball professionally when my hard work off the court started paying off and I was scouted by Netball Queensland. It made me feel proud to succeed in something that I enjoy, as a result of dedication and determination.

Kimberley Jenner, Netball

I first started playing netball when my older sister got into the sport, and once I had started playing, I couldn’t get enough! Being selected into the U19s Australian Squad cemented my dream to pursue netball professionally, and see how far I can take it. I’m always thinking, what’s the next step? What’s the next challenge? It’s a really exciting time for women’s sport in Australia at the moment, and I can’t wait to be a part of that, playing a sport I love.

Dane Bird-Smith, Race Walker

I was involved in athletics from a young age (my father is a dual Olympian) but it wasn’t until a high school athletics competition that I was asked to try the 3km race walk to earn some championship points for my school. I took a crack at it, and the rest is history! I maintained a balance of running and walking until a hamstring tear made it easy to choose between the two sports. I’ve grown to love my sport, and being the perfectionist I am, naturally the Olympics beckoned as the absolute peak of sporting competition. I focused myself over those last few years, climbing international ranks to take on the world at the 2016 Olympics. Now with the Games mere days away, I know how bad I want to win. I know the training I have put in, and I know it all comes down to one race. Bring it on!

Joshua Wigginton, Cricket

My family’s backyard cricket matches drove me to pursue the sport competitively, eventually playing in the 2nd and 3rd grade Brisbane teams. The enjoyment of playing the game, and the mental and physical endurance that is needed to play at a high level, is what motivates me to hit a six. 

Breanna Koenen, AFL

I started playing AFL when I was five, for the Magnetic Island Magpies. I played mixed juniors all through school and just loved it – no other sport will ever compare. I’ve been extremely lucky with the timing of developing women’s national competition. I am nearing the peak of my career being selected in all interstate matches this year, and am ready to give football my best shot!

Megan Williams, Mountain Biking

Watching my dad and brother compete in local biking comps as a kid lit the flame for my love of mountain biking. I'm very competitive, and could never do anything half-heartedly - these two traits are responsible for my success in representing Australia. I'm eager to see how far I can get in the sport, and welcome the opportunity to be an Olympian one day.

Tara Hinchliffe, Netball

I first started playing netball because my sister was a fan, and I didn’t want to miss out. Years later, having played in the Australian Netball League and as a replacement player for the Queensland Firebirds, I still love it, and welcome any opportunity I can to shoot some hoops!

Maddie Hinchliffe, Netball

I first picked up a netball because my older sister got involved, and I don’t like missing out. I love the game and the team aspect, and intend on playing for as long as I can now that I have been selected into the Elite Development Squad with Netball Queensland!

What has you Going for Gold? Whether you're a swimmerlifterrunner or budding tennis star, train like a champion at our venues!

Written by UQ Sport.

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