Two current University of Auckland students competing in rugby sevens and men’s rowing eight won gold medals at this year’s 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Several other students and alumni also competed.
UoA’s gold medal winning students are Women’s Rugby Sevens player Theresa Fitzpatrick, a Bachelor of Health Sciences student, and Michael Brake, who is part of the Men’s Rowing Eight crew and completing a BE(Hons) in Civil Engineering. The New Zealand Women’s Sevens team earned their gold placement after beating France in the final 26-12. The Men’s Rowing Eight crew won gold after qualifying for the final through the repêchage. If you’ve never heard of repêchage before (like myself before I looked it up), it’s basically the rowing equivalent of when the eliminated queens on Rupaul’s Drag Race get to come back and lip sync for a place in the final. They don’t call it the Drag Olympics for nothing.
Tokyo 2020 was the second Olympic games for both Fitzpatrick and Brake who first competed at the Rio games in 2016. Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences student Kanah Andrews-Nahu (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Porou) also competed in weightlifting (87kg), with Tokyo being her first Olympic games. UoA Bachelor of Science student Anna Steven is a track athlete who will be competing at the Paralympics, which begin on August 24 in Tokyo.
At this year’s Olympics, former UoA student Dylan Schmidt won a bronze medal in trampolining. Five other University of Auckland alumni also competed at Tokyo. Andrea Anacan was the first New Zealander to compete in Karate at the Olympics. Kayaker Teneale Hatton made the B Final in the K2 500 and came 4th in the K4 500 A final (I don’t have a pop culture analogy for this, but trust that it’s very impressive). Black Sticks captain Stacey Michelsen and teammate Tarryn Davey are also UoA alumni. Golfer Ryan Fox was also part of the New Zealand team.
Several of these athletes have been involved in the University’s High Performance Support Programme, which helps elite athletes manage their studies while competing in their sport. To be eligible for UoA’s programme, which is part of the Athlete Friendly Tertiary Network, you have to be performing at the highest level in a sport and be recognised by a national organisation.
This programme offered by UoA can provide student athletes with attendance and assessment flexibility and alternative exam arrangements. They also receive complimentary access to the University’s Recreation Centre. So if you’ve ever been at the Rec Centre feeling absolutely incompetent compared to the person next to you, don’t worry, they might have been an Olympian.