Athletics team in starting blocks for Taipei

Australia has performed superbly in athletics at the Summer Universiade in recent times, a competition that is often regarded as a championship only bettered in its quality of performance by the world championships and Olympics.

The Summer Universiade is often referred to as the final rehearsal for many young elite athletes around the country, who are completing their studies while training, before they progress to the open world-class level.

Athletics Australia team head coach Craig Hilliard also acknowledges the World University Games as a key point of development for the majority of athletes who will go on to compete at the Olympic level.

“The WUG is a high-level competition that offers a perfect pathway for a number of our young and upcoming stars, many of whom are transitioning from elite junior to elite senior ranks,” Hilliard said.

“It has a proud tradition and has helped provide the competition impetus for many of our best performing athletes over the years.

“This year’s Games is no exception and will lay the foundation for those athletes to pursue success at the upcoming 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, 2019 World Championships in Doha and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”

With places on the Taipei-bound team limited, the Australian Athletics Championships next week will prove a critical opportunity for athletes to post final qualifying marks and stake their claim for selection.

A number of rising young athletes including 2017 NSW 100m and 110m hurdles state champion Nicholas Andrews, World Under 20 Championships Hammer Throw silver medallist Alex Hulley and Melbournian middle distance runner Adam Pyke will be looking to break into the team for the first time this year.

While previous World University Games representatives including 2015 discus silver medallist Matthew Denny has already achieved a qualifying standard this summer. Similarly Gwangju bronze medallists Naa Anang (long jump) and Michelle Jenneke (100m hurdles) will both also compete having the qualifiers already under their belts.

Australia had seven medallists in Gwangju two years ago including athletics’ Rachel Tallent, Stephanie Stigwood and Nicole Fagan who claimed a bronze in the women’s team 20km walk while Dane Bird-Smith took gold in the men’s 20km walk event, a precursor to his Olympic bronze medal in Rio.

“The honour roll of medallists and athletes who have gone on and achieved at the highest level is significant,” Hilliard added.

“Athletes who have brought home gold for Australia include; Jane Jamieson (Heptathlon), Dani Samuels (Discus), Dane Bird-Smith (20km walk), Eloise Wellings (5000m) and Kylie Wheeler (Heptathlon).

“Importantly, it also highlights that many of our most successful athletes in track and field have also excelled at their studies and later in their chosen vocation.”

An outstanding performance by the team as a whole in Korea led to a successful outing by student-athletes at the Rio Olympics last year.

In Brazil student-athletes were responsible for 61 per cent of the total medals won across 10 sports - representing the majority of medallists, continuing on from the great performance in London.

Watch the Australian Athletics Championships here (29 March - 2 April)

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