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Olympic success headlines Blues Awards

April 1, 2022

AN Olympic champion has headlined Bond University’s Blues Awards.

Gold medal winning Kayaker Jean van der Westhuyzen, sprinter Bree Masters and Olympic swimmers Alex Graham and Maddy Gough were named Sportspersons of the Year for 2020 and 2021.

The black-tie Awards night celebrated the outstanding sporting achievements of Bond’s elite student-athletes over the last two years, with the Covid pandemic delaying the 2021 event.

Van der Westhuyzen was honoured for his gold medal performance in the K2 1000m event at the Tokyo Olympics.

“Winning gold at Tokyo, that moment was something of a relief that everything that I had sacrificed paid off,” said Van der Westhuyzen, who moved from South Africa to pursue his Olympic dream.

“All I can say is a massive thank you to Bond University. Looking back at that gold medal, I thought of all the people to thank on my kayaking journey and Bond was definitely one of the first that comes to mind. I’m really lost for words.”

Graham was recognised for his two bronze medals in the 4x100 and 4x200 freestyle relays at the Tokyo Olympics.

“Coming off the back of London and Rio, the Australian swim team obviously didn’t perform how we would have liked. I think we really wanted to ensure we had that team comradery and obviously it paid dividends,” Graham said.

Masters was named Sportswoman of the Year for her breakout athletics season including seven first-place finishes, while Gough made history – making the final of the 1500m freestyle – the first time the event had ever featured at an Olympics for women.

“I’m really honoured to receive this award,” Masters said via video from Sydney.

“I wish I could be there in person, but I’m competing at the Australian Athletics Championships, chasing my dreams of representing my country at the Commonwealth Games and World Athletics Championships.”

Bond AFL director of coaching David Ashkar was named High Performance Coach of the Year after leading all four Bull Sharks teams to grand finals, the AFL program was also named Champion Club of the year.

“We try to create a safe environment for all our people, and to do that you need some really good head coaches,” Ashkar said.

“With the AFL team winning team of the year and obviously this award as well, it is very humbling.

“I’m very proud to be a part of it.”

Netballer Ashleigh Keefe and mogul skier Claire Dooley were given the Elite Sport Scholar Award.

Keefe - studying a Master of Nutrition and Dietetic Practice - had three first-in-class awards and an 86% cumulative average, while Dooley - studying a Bachelor of Biomedical Science - had four first-in-class awards and a 96.3% cumulative average.

A total of 26 athletes were recognised with Blues Awards for representing their sport at the highest level. 

The Blues Awards night also celebrated Bond’s Executive Director of Sport Garry Nucifora who called time on his storied tenure at the university.

Since starting in 2014 Mr Nucfiora has secured partnerships with the Brisbane Lions AFLW team, the Chiefs esports team,  as well as linking strongly with state, national and international sporting bodies. 

“This is a night we are all very proud of,” Mr Nucifora said.

“Our sport mission statement is Bond Sport, changing the game in University Sport in Australia.

“I am extremely proud of what we have achieved.”

Former winners of Bond University’s Blues Awards include Grant Hackett, Chris Fydler, Ky Hurst, Mat Belcher, and Annabelle Williams.

Blue Award recipients:

Minna Atherton (swimming), Kaine Baldwin (AFL), Emily Bass (rugby), Angus Blyth (rugby), Lara Claydon (surfing), Joe Collins (surf lifesaving), Caitlyn Costello (rugby), Claire Dooley (mogul skiing), Daisy Fielding (equestrian), Madeleine Gough (swimming), Alexander Graham (swimming), Ryan James (rugby league), Jemma Heran (equestrian), Keegan Hipgrave (rugby league), Matthew Kuhnemann (cricket), Bree Masters (surf lifesaving), Hollie-Kate Melia (gymnatstics), Zane Nonggorr (rugby), Abigail Schoorl (swimming), Jack Smith (motor racing), Mia Smith (swimming), Cory Taylor surf lifesaving), Laura Taylor (swimming), Jean Van Der Westhuyzen (kayaking), Jack Winchester (rugby), Elijah Winnington (swimming).