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QUT's "Sensational Seven" compete at Olympics

16th July 2012

QUT's 40,000 students will make up a mighty cheer squad during the London Olympics for seven of their fellow students.

Seven members of Australia's Olympic team are studying at QUT and being supported by the university's Elite Athlete Program.

Our Olympian students are: Bronte Barratt, swimming; Cate Campbell, swimming; Eloise Amberger, synchronised swimming; Christian Sprenger, swimming; Madonna Blyth, hockey; Andrew McCabe, running; and Sophie Smith, water polo. (See brief profiles below.)

QUT Elite Athlete Program coordinator Alison Thomson said the students who would compete in London were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the university's sporting prowess.

"We actually have over 300 students involved with the program this year, including many who excel at non-Olympic sports like netball, motorsport, AFL, Irish dancing, mountain biking and rugby, to name a few," Ms Thomson said.

"Elite athletes have such a small window of time to succeed and they are totally committed to their sport. Our aim is to help get them through university and make sure they have an education that will help them to adapt to life after sport.

"People have to be mentally tough to excel at sport at a national or international level, and that mental toughness tends to also help them succeed academically.

"We help by making sure there is flexibility when it comes to lectures and tutorials and exam timetabling."

Health courses such as nutrition and dietetics, and exercise and movement science, are popular among QUT's elite athletes. But they also study across many other areas, including law, creative industries, business and engineering.

Ms Thomson said one of the most common misconceptions about elite athletes was that they all made money from their sport and sponsorship, once they reached an international standard.

"Most of the athletes in our program make no money from their sport - they do it for the love of it and the challenge," she said.

"We have students who pay their own way to many events and end up thousands of dollars out of pocket by the end of the year.

"Financial support is not the main goal of our program but we sometimes do fundraising activities to help students get to events. We also have a small pool of cash that can help to partially reimburse out-of-pocket travel expenses."

QUT's Olympic Athletes

Bronte Barratt, 23 - swimming
Bronte is Australia's current 200m freestyle champion and won gold in the 4x200m relay at the Beijing Olympics. She will represent Australia in both those events at London, plus the 400m freestyle. Bonte grew up at Albany Creek, went to Samford State School and St Margarets Anglican Girls School, and is now doing a Bachelor of Health Science at QUT.

Christian Sprenger, 26 - swimming
Christian is our national 100m breaststroke champ (after breaking the elusive one-minute barrier at the 2012 titles) and a hot favourite for London. An industrial design student at QUT, he's nearing the end of his degree and is already looking to life beyond the pool: he wants to design high-tech swimwear for Speedo. He attended Our Lady of the Rosary Primary School and St Joseph's College Gregory Terrace prior to QUT.

Cate Campbell, 20 - swimming
Cate was a bronze medallist at the 2008 Olympics and will represent her country in 2012 in the 100m freestyle, 4x100m freestyle and 50m freestyle. She just edged out younger sister Bronte in the 100m at the Australian trials, with the Campbells now both off to London where they will become the first Australian sisters to compete at the same Olympic event. Cate attended Chapel Hill State School and Kenmore High and is now studying toward a Bachelor of Mass Communication at QUT.

Eloise Amberger, 25 - synchronised swimming
Eloise will represent Australia in the duet and team syncro swimming. She won bronze at the 2010 Commonwealth Games and made the finals at the Beijing Olympics. Away from the water, the multi-talented Queenslander is doing a Bachelor of Applied Science (Forensic Science and Biochemistry) at QUT and also runs a jewellery business. She attended St Kevin's Primary School and St Rita's College at Clayfield.

Madonna Blyth, 26 - hockey
A seasoned Hockeyroo, Madonna captains the Australian women's hockey team and has represented her country in 200 international matches. She has balanced her fulltime sports career with studying for a Bachelor of Justice at QUT for the past 10 years. Madonna is a northside girl: She attended Virginia State School and Wavell State High.

Andrew McCabe, 21 - running
Andrew will represent Australia in one of the Games' most prestigious events - the men's 4x100m relay. A 200m and 100m specialist, he combines his training with studying for a Bachelor of Education (Secondary) degree at QUT. He attended Centenary Heights State High.

Sophie Smith, 26 - water polo
London will be Sophie's debut Olympics, after narrowly missing the Beijing team in 2008. She initially studied property economics at QUT before switching to fashion and public relations. Her school days were spent at Hilder Road State School and Brisbane Girls Grammar.

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Media contact: Mechelle McMahon, QUT media unit, media@qut.edu.au or 07 3138 9449

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