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Patrick Rebakis
Aug 18, 2017

ACU Athletes Take on the World

Aug 18, 2017 by Patrick Rebakis

As most  students are preparing for assignments and deadlines, five ACU students are on their way to take on the world at the 2017 Summer Universiade held in Taipei. Also known as World University Games, the multi-sport event will host over 12,000 athletes and officials from over 170 countries, which is set to rival the size of the Olympics.

The Australian Uniroos squad is selected from the best student athletes throughout Australian Universities. ACU is proud to have the following five students selected, and we look forward to their highlights and results: brothers Thomas and William Afonczenko (taekwondo), Alysha Burnett (heptathlon), Kyle Cranston (decathlon) and Brooke McClean (water polo). World University Games is a crucial stepping stone for these emerging athletes endeavouring for a spot in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games or the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games squads.

The 29th World University Games runs from the 19th-30th of August. With the official opening ceremony on Saturday 19 August, many of ACU’s athletes arrived last week after coming off training camps elsewhere in Asia. Bachelor of Occupational Therapy student, Brooke McClean, was preparing for the event with her water polo team mates in Tokyo, Japan. During the season, Brooke plays for ACU partnership club, ACU Cronulla Sharks in the National Water Polo League.

The Uniroos team of 186 student-athletes arrived in the dedicated athlete village to a muggy 35 degree heat. The World University Games is the world's second largest international athletic event, double the size of the Winter Olympics and bigger than the Commonwealth Games, providing the athletes with a great simulation into large multi-sport events.

Athletes arriving at the village

ACU’s Elite Athlete & Performer Program (EAPP) Officer, Ceran Nilsen spoke of World University Games, “It’s a great opportunity for these ACU student athletes to learn at a large-scale international event all the while representing their university and country.” She went on to add “the athletes are faced with a number of challenges being such a different environment from their regular training and competition schedules. They show great resilience and determination to still excel in their studies while competing in a high pressure event.  Everything from their diet, sleeping conditions, temperature and the added stimulation of being around so many other athletes can alter their study and sport performance”.

It will be a unique experience for the Afonczenko brothers as they get to share the experience of the Summer Universiade together for the first time. Tom competed in the 2015 Gwangju Universiade and made the 16th round but is determined to make the podium this time, all the while sharing the games with his younger brother Will.  The two are studying Bachelors of Exercise & Health Science at ACU’s Melbourne campus and have come off some great results at the New Zealand Open and World Championships held in Korea.   

“I'm over the moon Will’s coming,” Thomas said.

“Having Will on the team is really exciting for me, he's my training partner and he pushes me to be the best I can be. When I have Will travelling with me I feel unstoppable.”

Tom and Will have both given praise to ACU’s Elite Athlete and Performer Program (EAPP) with Tom saying, “The ACU EAPP has been so helpful and supportive with my World Championships preparations and allowed for me to keep on top of my studies whilst travelling to competitions and training camps held at the AIS and overseas”. While Will said, the EAPP “has allowed me to train and travel without the added pressure of my university workload as they have been extremely accommodating in balancing out my schedule”.

The EAPP helps balance the demands of being an athlete or performer with academic pursuits, to excel both at university and in their chosen sporting or performing field. ACU boasts over 400 student athletes and performers across more than 70 disciplines. Members of the EAPP have access to academic support, early timetabling and financial support, among other sporting or performing arts related opportunities. 

We wish our five ACU student-athletes all the best at World University Games and we will all be cheering for them as they take on the world! Stay tuned to ACU Health, Sport and Wellbeing’s social media for the latest results.

For more information about the program contact ACU’s EAPP team at  

Full ACU Squad:

Alysha Burnett: Athletics, Heptathlon (Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science)
Kyle Cranston: Athletics, Decathlon (Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science)
Thomas Afonczenko: Taekwondo (Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science)
William Afonczenko: Taekwondo (Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science)
Brooke McClean: Water Polo (Bachelor of Occupational Therapy)

Photo Credit: Australian University Sport/ Australian Uniroos