Sporting excellence recognised at 2021 Blues Awards

2021 Griffith University Academic Athlete of the Year Zac Stubblety-Cook with Professor Carolyn Evans and Naomi McCarthy OAM

After returning from Tokyo with seven Olympic medals, swimming sensation and 2021 Bachelor of Public Health graduate Emma McKeon has been named Overall Athlete of the Year at Griffith University’s Blues Awards for Sporting Excellence on the Gold Coast.

Fellow Tokyo Olympian, Zac Stubblety-Cook (above), who achieved Gold and Bronze medals in the pool, was awarded Academic Athlete of the Year in front of a sea of Griffith Sports College members, comprised of current Griffith student athletes and elite alumni.

73 of this year’s Griffith University Blues Award winners represented Australia whilst studying at the University.

Student athletes, including Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic team members, who received 2021 Blues awards.

McKeon’s Blues recognition comes after she was also named 2021 FINA World Cup Champ.

Griffith Sports College Manager Naomi McCarthy OAM said despite many worthy contenders, McKeon’s efforts were impossible to ignore.

Currently overseas, Emma McKeon accepted her award via video.

“Griffith had a large number of athletes that competed in both the Paralympics and the Olympics this year and all of those efforts have tonight been rewarded with full or half Blues awards but taking into account the incredible results at both Games this year, Emma McKeon was a standout as our Overall Athlete of the Year,” McCarthy said.

“There were some pretty amazing achievements and in some sports, athletes might only have the opportunity to win one medal, for example, compared to a swimming athlete that can win multiple medals, yet even with that consideration, she was the clear winner.

“She brought home an incredible seven medals, the most achieved by any Australian at a single Games and was undoubtedly the Queen of the pool in Tokyo, even with the likes of Ariane Titmus and Kaylee McKeown also delivering unbelievable times and heart-in-the-mouth performances.”

McCarthy, a dual Olympian who won Gold at the Sydney Olympics and then captained her country in water polo at the Athens Games, said Zac Stubblety-Cook, who won the same Blues award in 2019, and studies dual degrees in Psychological Science and Business, was driven to succeed.

“Swimming is a massive part of who he is but it’s certainly by no means all of him. He’s very dedicated, works at the Queensland Academy of Sport as well, studies really hard and achieved some really outstanding academic results along with his Gold and Bronze medals this year,” she said.

The Academic Athlete of the Year award is given to an athlete who maintains the highest grade-point average from the previous three semesters of studying, while taking into consideration their study and sporting load.

“Athletes are generally quite driven people, and as an elite athlete, most are going to do whatever they do, to the best of their ability.

“Zac is very loyal and dedicated, and he goes about his business, whether that’s study or competition, in an unassuming way.

“One of his greatest traits is his interest in other athletes and he is open to learning tips and lessons from current and former athletes.”

An athlete panel held at the 2021 Blues Awards also featured Stubblety-Cook alongside four-time Olympian Bronwen Knox and Tokyo Paralympic Gold medallist and Gold Coast local Curtis McGrath, speaking about their own journeys juggling the multiple demands of training, competition and studying for life after representative sport.

Griffith has established itself as one of Australia’s leading sporting universities, with a current roster of around 600 student athletes and a legacy of alumni who have achieved the pinnacle of their respective sports.

In 2021, Griffith University had the largest contingent of athletes from any Australian University with 44 athletes competing at the Olympics, and 9 athletes competing at the Paralympics.

“Griffith is incredibly proud of all that our athletes have been able to achieve over this past couple of years, especially given the pandemic,” McCarthy added.

“Not only were the numbers of Griffith student and alumni athletes competing at both Olympics and Paralympics incredible, but the results were unbelievable.

“We’ve also got a contingent of athletes that are yet to fully bloom, who are simmering below the surface and getting ready to make their mark as we push forward to towards the next cycle of competition.”

Fast Facts

  • In 2021, Griffith University had the largest contingent of athletes from any Australian University with 44 athletes competing at the Olympics, and 9 athletes competing at the Paralympics.
  • Griffith athletes made up almost 10% of the Australian Olympic team and 5% of the Paralympic team.
  • Griffith also had two staff members involved. Our High-Performance swimming coach, Michael Bohl, coaching at the Olympics, and Rowing coach, Lincoln Handley, coaching at the Paralympics.
  • Griffith athletes excelled, returning home with 19 medals from the Olympic Games, including 9 gold, 1 Silver and 9 Bronze.
  • This achievement would have placed Griffith 17th on the final medal tally if we were a country.
  • Griffith’s Paralympic athletes also shone, with Griffith athletes winning 10 medals, including 6 gold, 1 silver and 3 bronze.
  • Griffith’s sporting alumni includes more than 82 Olympians, 15 Paralympians, 60+ Commonwealth Games.

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