Twelve University of Canberra (UC) students were yesterday awarded $10,000 scholarships to help them balance their time between study and their elite sport pursuits.
The recipients of the Eldon and Anne Foote Elite Athlete Scholarships come from a variety of sporting areas including race walking, rugby 7’s, snow sports, swimming, hockey, rugby league, para-athletics and, for the first time, AFL umpiring.
UC director of sport Carrie Graff said the sport scholarship funding can be put toward either sport equipment, travel to events, training, or their studies.
“One of the beauties of it is that it’s a scholarship that says you’re an elite high performance athlete student; you spend the money to support your career and student journey,” she said.
“Particularly coming off the back of COVID and a year where the Olympics has been delayed … some of the athletes that are preparing for a potential Tokyo Olympics have had to totally change their training schedules.”
Para-athlete Sarah Walsh is in the midst of preparing for the Tokyo Paralympics in August, and told Canberra Weekly the $10,000 scholarship will help her with “travel and everyday life”.
“Knowing that I’m financially stable for the next few months takes away that pressure heading into the competition, which is really important for me,” she said.
The 22-year-old long jump athlete is in the fourth year of her sports science degree, after moving to Canberra from Sydney at the end of 2017.
Having competed at the Rio Paralympics as an 18-year-old just two and a half weeks before taking her Year 12 exams, Walsh said balancing her study and sport is “always something I’ve been used to”.
“To have something else outside of sport I can focus on is really important for me,” she said. “It might sound strange, but I really enjoy sitting down and doing uni work.”
Coming off collecting a bronze medal at the 2019 World Championships, Walsh is hoping to build on that result in Tokyo and said she felt excited knowing the Games are “just around the corner”.
“There’s definitely been some challenging times but also been one of the best things that ever happened to have an extra 12 months to get fitter, stronger and faster,” she said.
“All the hard work we’ve put in will hopefully all be worthwhile.”
UC and Raiders ‘made Canberra feel like home’
Currently training full time as a development player with the Canberra Raiders, the modest income Clay Webb earns from his contract has required him to work a second job on the weekend to cover his costs.
The 19-year-old told Canberra Weekly the funding from the UC sports scholarship is going to “help out a lot” by allowing him to “focus on study and footy”.
Growing up in Gundagai, Webb moved to Canberra before commencing Year 11 and said both the Raiders and UC have “made Canberra feel like home” for him.
“People like Ricky Stuart have always made the transition easier,” he said. “I went to school with Ricky’s son and was frequently around his place.
“At the uni they’ve really helped me out and made it very easy with things like scheduling classes to fit in with training.
“Their leniency toward changing my classes makes me feel like I’m a priority to them, which is a nice feeling.”
Having started a degree in secondary education majoring in physical education this year, Webb sees the value in setting himself up for a career post football and “not just putting all my eggs in the one basket”.
“It’s very important,” he said. “Sport is one of the biggest cutthroat industries there is, so having a university degree going forward can set me up for life.
“Thirty-four years is pretty much the max age and that’s even if you get to play your whole career, so having something like this is a privilege for me so I feel very honoured,” he said.
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