Melbourne Uni athletes to feature in Naples

30th Summer Universiade Preview

A strong Australian team of 51 track and field athletes will commence competition on day five of the 30th edition of the multi-sport Summer Universiade, being held in Naples (Italy) this week. At the Games, 18 sports will be contested by 5,971 athletes from 112 countries. In track and field, 1,247 athletes will compete in the 50 gold medal events.

The Games are an ideal stepping stone to the global, Olympic and World Championship events as athletes are in a multi-sport environment, experience rounds and follow all the procedures like any major championship. A few athletes from the 2015 team who have followed the World University Games pathway to the top in Australian rankings include Naa Anang, Stewart McSweyn and Nicola McDermott.

On paper, Australia has many medal prospects, none better than Catriona Bisset (The University of Melbourne) who has dipped under two minutes in the 800m this year. At the 2015 Games, the race was won by NZL’s Angie Petty in 1:59.06, with all medallists under two minutes. Bisset has had some comfortable wins over Petty in 2019, including last week at the Oceania Championships. The 800m at the 2017 Games were won by Cuba’s Rose Mary Almanza in 2:02.21, so times can be irrelevant, as races can be tactical.

As one of the leading entries and with her front running tactics in the 800m, Bisset will likely be one of the hunted.

“I have built a bit of a reputation now for leading,” she noted after her recent race at the Oceania Championships. While in Europe, she also has some major races lined up.

“I’m really excited to be in races where athletes will run the first lap in 56 or 57 seconds, and see what happens.”

Morgan Mitchell (Victoria University) is also in the 800m and has the potential to join Bisset on the podium.

Following a tremendous start to his European campaign two days ago, where he leapt 8.12m in Switzerland, Darcy Roper (University of Queensland) is looking strong for a podium finish in the long jump. The last two Games have been won with leaps of 8.02m and 8.29m wind assisted. Discus silver medallist at the 2015 Games, Matthew Denny (Griffith University) is a strong medal prospect in 2019.

Race walkers Jemima Montag (The University of Melbourne) and Katie Hayward (Griffith University) are in the best form of their careers. In warm conditions Montag last week won the Oceania 10,000m event in a PB, while teenager Hayward has this year become the third fastest in Australian history.

The performance at Oceania in challenging conditions also confirmed that Montag’s training preparation for hots races at the World University Games (Naples) and World Championships (Doha), were right on track.

“At the VIS I have been using the hyperbaric chamber about twice a week. It is generally cranked up to about 36-37 degrees with about 60% humidity,” Montag said.

In the men’s 20km walk, Declan Tingay (The University of Western Australia) is stepping up from being an outstanding junior in 2018 to the 20km distance. He has returned well from an early year injury and heads to Italy for two weeks training prior to the Games. After he placed second to Olympian Rhydian Cowley in the Oceania 10km walk last week, he indicated he was aiming for about double the 10km time of 42:42 he had just walked.

Fourth at the last World University Games in the 3000m steeplechase, Paige Campbell (Charles Sturt University) is now a 15 second better athlete and should press for a podium finish as she also hunts a Doha World Championships standard of 9:40. Another athlete who was fourth at the 2017 Games and could move onto the podium is Georgia Griffith (Monash University). She graduates from the 800m in Taipei to the 1500m in Naples.

Silver medallist in the heptathlon in 2017, Alysha Burnett (Australian Catholic University) will also compete in the high jump the day after the heptathlon. Her PBs put her in likely medal contention in both events. If two-time NCAA javelin champion, Mackenzie Little can match her PB of 60.36m, she will be in the medal hunt. She is also looking for the Doha World Championships standard of 61.50m.

Heptathlete Celeste Mucci (RMIT) changes focus for the World University Games, competing in the 100m, 100m hurdles and on the 4x100m relay. She is primarily targeting the hurdles rather than the heptathlon after a recent run of 13.02, close to the Doha World Championships standard of 12.98.

“There isn’t a lot of time until Doha, and you can’t keep competing every two weeks (in the heptathlon) to chase the qualifier, so I have decided to go for it in the hurdles,“ said Mucci. “That way I can race every week if I need to, that was our thoughts.”

The prospects of Queensland javelin thrower Liam O’Brien (The University of Queensland) depends on the depth of the field that appear at these Games. His PB of 81.36m would have won a medal in 2015 and nearly the gold, but in 2017 the event exploded with 86 metres required to win the bronze in an extortionary high standard competition.

At the last two Games 8:31 and 8:35 took gold in the men’s 3km steeplechase, so the prospects of National Champion Max Stevens (Swinburne University of Technology) are strong.

Georgia Hansen (The University of Melbourne), fresh of a personal best at UniNationals in Sydney will be looking to step under 4:10 for the 1500m.

Australia have two strong women’s relays, both with medal potential.

Broadcast on Eurosport the six-day track and field competition commences on Monday 8 July.


30th Summer Universiade