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Medals and memories for UniRoos in Napoli.

Updated: Mar 17



By Matthew Ivers


After big final night at athletics, which saw five medals, the 2019 Summer Universiade draws to a close after 11 days of competition. 


The UniRoos finished with 17 medals – six gold, five silver and six bronze to better the performance from two years ago in Taipei.

Six gold medals equals the UniRoos best ever haul from a Universiade in Shenzen in 2011 and 17 medals is the second best result, falling just two short of Gwangju 2015 where the UniRoos won 19 medals in total. Australia finished 12th on the medal tally.


For Chef de Mission Liz Morgan-Brett, Napoli 2019 should be viewed as a tremendous success.

“The Australian team has performed exceptionally well here in Naples.” Morgan-Brett said.

“In terms of athlete performance, we can say the athletes have done exceptionally well. A number of athletes have recorded PBs and we’ve seen some fantastic performances resulting in medals.”


With Napoli being Morgan-Brett’s third Summer Universiade as Chef de Mission, she knows that success at the Games is not just measured in individual performances, but in overall team performance, team morale and health.


“Success is measured in a number of factors for us. The team has finished happy and healthy, I think they’ve enjoyed the environment here, they’ve shown true Aussie grit in the wake of some very different challenges that we haven’t faced before from other Games.”


“So overall from the perspective of team management, athlete performance, athlete health and wellbeing, it has been an exceptional games for the UniRoos.”


It’s natural to look at the medal tally to determine success at any major championship event, and as Morgan-Brett stated, Australia performed exceptionally well. 


The Emerging Opals, coached by Shannon Seebohm, claiming back-to-back gold medals in the women’s basketball with a dominant gold medal performance over the USA after hard fought wins in the quarterfinals and semi-finals over Chinese Taipei and Portugal.


The Emerging Boomers, led tremendously by Jack White (Duke University) and coached by Rob Bevridge, winning the bronze medal after blitzing Israel, the team who thumped the UniRoos earlier in the tournament. Made up from players all over the world, the team came together for the first time in Naples just days before the start of the competition, forming bonds and becoming a cohesive unit before our own eyes.


In the pool William Yang (University of Sydney) opening proceedings for the UniRoos with gold in the men’s 50m butterfly while Moesha Johnson (Southern Cross University) took out silver in the women’s 1500m freestyle in a well-paced race. Chelsea Hodges (Griffith University), Calypso McDonnell (Northwestern University) and the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay team all took our bronze to give the UniRoos a strong start to the Universiade with five medals.


In athletics Catriona Bisset (University of Melbourne) and Katie Hayward (Griffith University) were crowned champions in the women’s 800m and women’s 20km walk, beating the heat as much as the field. The women’s 20km walk team worked well together to also take out gold as Jemima Montag (University of Melbourne) won silver behind Katie while decathlete Alexander Diamond (Australian Catholic University) took the silver in a gruelling two-day decathlon. Matthew Denny (Griffith University) powered his way to gold in the men’s discus, while 1500m runner Georgia Griffith (Monash University) and the women’s 4x100m relay team of Abbie Taddeo (Australian College of Physical Education), Nana Owusu-Afriyie (Deakin University), Riley Day (Griffith University) and Celeste Mucci (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) claimed silver medals. Long Jumper Darcy Roper (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) and the women’s 4x400m relay team of Genevieve Cowie (University of Sydney), Morgan Mitchell (Collarts), Jessie Stafford (University of Sydney) and Gabriella O’Grady (University of Technology Sydney) rounded out the athletics competition medal haul with bronze medals.


With the Summer Universiade over athletes now turn their attention to Tokyo 2020 with many soon to begin the qualification process if they haven’t started their road to the 2020 Games.

For some, 2020 won’t be their first Olympic experience. Denny, Mitchell and Jacob Hansford (Australian College of Physical Education) all represented Australia at Rio 2016 and will all be looking for a second opportunity.


Riley Day (Griffith University), Alysha Burnett (Australian Catholic University) in athletics and Michael Tone (Queensland University of Technology) in gymnastics are just three who will  look to build from Napoli 2019 as they eye the 2020 Olympics, having  already competed  at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.


For many, the Summer Universiade was their first taste of an international multi-sport games. Hayward, Heath Thorpe (Queensland University of Technology) in gymnastics and  Will Magnay (Open Universities Australia) from the Emerging Boomers among others will all cherish this experience with strong performances no doubt giving them confidence to push on in the future.


The experienced Emerging Opals squad already features numerous WNBA and WNBL players with Ezi Magbegor (Deakin University) already having made the jump to the senior Opals squad. But we can expect to hear even more from these players if their performances from Napoli 2019 are anything to go by.


However, it was not just the medal winning performances that provided the highlights of the games, with a number of athletes producing memorable moments.


Max Stevens (Swinburne University of Technology) putting everything he had into the 3000m steeplechase heats on a warm Italian summer day, barely making it over the line before collapsing but getting up three days later for the final.


The men’s foil fencing team defeating one of the strongest teams in the world in Japan, reaching the bronze medal match in a terrific display.


Kaitlin Staines (University of Tennessee) reaching the quarter finals of the women’s singles tennis competition, outlasting her opponents in long, draining matches. 


For the immediate future though, it’s back to study, with many putting education on hold over the last month in order to concentrate on the games.


The UniRoos number 184 athletes from 64 Australian and international universities, competed in 15 of the 18 sports on offer in Napoli with athletes from archery, athletics, basketball, diving, fencing, artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, judo, sailing, shooting, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis and water polo taking to the stage, with positive performances and results coming from every one of them.


It has been a perfect learning opportunity which will no doubt see many athletes go on to bigger and better things, which is what the Summer Universiade is designed for.

The focus now shifts to Chengdu 2021 with the UniRoos already excited for what the next instalment of the Summer Universiade will bring.




Matthew Ivers

UniSport Australia media and communications intern

The University of Queensland