Commonwealth Games hopefuls awarded swimming scholarships to Bond

Two national swimming champions who are hot contenders for selection for the 2018 Commonwealth Games - Elijah Winnington and Minna Atherton - have been awarded the prestigious Georgina Hope Rinehart Swimming Excellence Scholarship to study at Bond University in 2018.

This is the fourth year the Georgina Hope Rinehart Swimming Excellence Scholarship has been offered, with past recipients including Australian Dolphin team member Alex Graham and 2016 Rio Olympic silver medallist, Maddie Groves.

The scholarship enables two of the country’s brightest young swimming stars with the opportunity to compete at an elite level while gaining a first-class Australian education at Bond University on the Gold Coast.

17-year-old Winnington is no stranger to Bond, having trained with the Bond University Swimming Club’s crack coaching team, Richard Scarce and Kyle Samuelson, for several years.

Under their tutelage, Winnington has won 24 national titles at the annual Georgina Hope Foundation Australian Age Championships and broke two Australian records. At last week’s Queensland State Championships, he took home seven gold medals, a silver and a bronze, including gold in the open 200m and 400m freestyle events, and a number of age (17/18 years) freestyle and butterfly events.

Earlier this year, Winnington was selected to represent Australia at the Junior World Championships in Indianapolis - his second opportunity to represent his country, following his selection in the Australian team for the Junior Pan Pacs in Hawaii in 2016, where he Captained the team.

In addition to his role of ambassador for Speedo Australia, he also displays strong leadership skills out of the pool. As a student of Kings Christian College, Winnington was elected House Captain of Raleigh House, maintained his position in the top percentile of all his subjects, and regularly assisted with the Light of Hope, a charity who support the homeless on the Gold Coast. 

Winnington, who plans to study a Bachelor of Business at Bond when he commences in January 2018, said he was very much looking forward to entering a new chapter of his life as a University student and open age swimmer.

“I feel extremely grateful and honoured to be awarded the Georgina Hope Rinehart Swimming Excellence Scholarship, and am very thankful of the support provided by my coaches, Bond University Swimming Club and my family to achieve this,” he said.

In terms of his short-term swimming aspirations – it comes as no surprise that Winnington’s chief aim is to represent Australia at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

“I could think of nothing greater than representing this nation in front of my home town,” he said.

In the longer term, I would love to make an Olympic Games and come away with individual and relay medals.” 

Outside the pool, Winnington’s career goals include starting a sporting management company to help athletes chart a course for their own careers.

17-year-old Minna Atherton, who trains under Coach David Lush at Brisbane Grammar Swim Club, competed at her first National Age Championships in 2013, where she broke several Australian age records and was ranked amongst the top age-group backstrokers in the country.

Following that, she was selected onto three junior teams and one senior Australian team, including the 2014 Australian Junior Pan-Pacific Championship team and the 2015 Junior World Championships, where - as a 15-year-old - she won three gold and three silver medals and broke multiple junior world records.

In 2016, she finished just 0.2 seconds behind the second qualifier in the 100m backstroke at the Australian Olympic Trials, then went on to be appointed one of the Australian team leaders of the Junior Pan-Pacific Championship team.

In order to best balance the demands of both swimming and study in her senior year, in 2017 Atherton withdrew her availability for any international Australian swimming teams and modified her training load to focus on achieving consistently high grades. She also honed her leadership skills through her role of as one of Brisbane Girls Grammar School Swimming Captains.

“I am now 100 per cent focused on my training in order to qualify for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Team,” Atherton said.

“My family and I were super excited when we heard that I had been awarded the scholarship, as it is such an amazing opportunity. I know that everything I learn at Bond University - be it academic, sporting or general life experience - is guaranteed to help me later in life.”

Atherton plans to commence a Bachelor of Biomedical Science at Bond University in May 2018, with a view to a future potential career in medicine or physiotherapy.

“By building a career in Biomedical Science, the knowledge I acquire throughout my education will undoubtedly give me a greater understanding of the factors impacting sporting capabilities, which in turn can only enhance my performance as an athlete,” she said.

“The quality of education provided and the facilities available to all students at Bond University are extraordinary, as is the support available to its athletes to help them balance their sporting and academic needs.

“For all these reasons I’m really looking forward to studying at Bond in the years leading up to the next Olympic Games. My aim is to be part of the Australian Olympic Games team for Tokyo in 2020.”

The Georgina Hope Rinehart Swimming Excellence Scholarship also provides recipients with a unique mentoring experience, due to Bond’s alumni of Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medal swimmers, who are on hand to provide both career and sport mentoring, as well as practical advice to help the young athletes prepare for life beyond sport.

Patron of the Scholarship program and long-standing supporter of both Bond University and Swimming Australia, Mrs Gina Rinehart, warmly congratulated the latest two recipients of the Georgina Hope Rinehart Swimming Excellence scholarships, Minna and Elijah. 

“This scholarship provides an opportunity for these talented young Australians to gain both a quality education and realise their full sporting potential,” Mrs Rinehart said.

“Both Minna and Elijah embody the athletic, academic and leadership qualities we are looking for in our scholarship recipients and I wish them all the best."

Bond University's Executive Director of Sport, Garry Nucifora, said the scholarship had the potential to be ‘life-changing’ for its recipients.

“The Georgina Hope Rinehart Swimming Excellence Scholarship can help to open many doors in the world of Australian, and international, swimming,” Mr Nucifora said.

“For a lot of student athletes, the alleviation of the financial pressure of university can make it a lot easier for them to focus on, and excel in, both study and sporting performance. 

“Both Minna and Elijah are worthy recipients of this scholarship and have the talent, attitude and leadership potential to make their mark on the world stage.”

Bond University Chancellor, the Honourable Dr Annabelle Bennett AO SC said the scholarship was the ideal platform for elite athletes to launch their academic and sporting careers simultaneously.

“We look forward to following and celebrating Elijah and Minna’s achievements - in the pool and in their studies - in 2018 and beyond.

“We are very grateful to Mrs Rinehart for her invaluable support of our students and her continued commitment to developing Australia’s sporting talent through the Georgina Hope Rinehart Swimming Excellence Scholarship.”

For more information on Hancock Prospecting and the Georgina Hope Foundation please visit  www.hancockprospecting.com.au and www.ginarinehart.com.au.