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Bond swimmers set to take on the world at Paris Games

Flynn Southam and Ben Armbruster Olympics
Flynn Southam and Ben Armbruster 

They are the fantastic five, the Bondies who will take on the world’s best swimmers in the pool at the Paris La Défense Arena.  

After a week of racing at the Australian trials, Flynn Southam, Ben Armbruster, Elijah Winnington and Jenna Strauch were named in the 44 person Dolphins Olympics squad, widely considered to be the strongest Australian team ever assembled.

Within the Olympic village they’ll cross paths with fellow Bondy Omar Abbass, who has been selected to represent Syria in the 200m freestyle.     

While Abbass will continue to train at Bond under coach Kyle Samuelson until he joins his Syrian teammates in mid-July, the Aussie quartet will first complete a training and acclimatising block in Canet, France before moving on the Olympic pre-staging camp Chartres.

Flynn Southam 

Flynn Southam has been an Olympian in waiting almost from the moment he first jumped into a pool.

He was one of the nation’s standout high school athletes, collecting an impressive haul of medals at Junior World Championships and Pan Pacific Games and along the way claiming an age record previously held by Olympic Gold medallist Kyle Chalmers.

Now the Hancock Prospecting Swimming Excellence Scholarship recipient will team-up with Chalmers in the Paris pool Australia’s 4x100m freestyle relay – an event they joined forces in Japan last year to claim the gold medal at the World Championships.

“It’s pretty surreal and it is different in comparison to making the World’s or the Commonwealth Games because the Olympics is the pinnacle of sport,” he said.

“To make it in a relay and be given the opportunity to go over there and represent Australia at the highest level is pretty special.

“So, it is awesome and it is even better that I get to do it with Benny (Bond University team mate Ben Armbruster).

Ben Armbruster 

For Ben Armbruster the Olympic trials were a perfectly executed plan.

To start with he was fit, relatively pain free and confident. 

Then he busted free of the nerves that usually weigh him down before his pet event in the 100m butterfly by securing an Olympic berth in his secondary event the 50m freestyle, finishing second to Cameron McEvoy, on day three of the trials.

“I couldn’t believe it for a little while,” he said.

“I knew I had a chance, I knew that I had opened the door in the heats and all I had to do was just walk through it.

“It was a dream come true and a blur of emotions.’’

The butterfly was in the final day of racing and the 22-year-old Bond University Sports Management student, spared the usual tension that accompanies a big meet, produced a personal best to finish second to National record holder Matt Temple. 

“I usually get very nervous before a 100m butterfly because I expect a lot of myself,” he said. 

“And having the weight off my chest definitely helped my performance and I was able to improve by about half a second. 

“It was exactly to plan really.’’

Jenna Strauch  

Jenna Strauch Olympics
Jenna Strauch 

When she was a kid, a framed photo of Jenna Strauch as a nine-year-old alongside Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Australian Olympic swimming star Giaan Rooney held pride of place in her Bendigo bedroom. 

Having secured a spot in Australia’s 40-strong Paris 2024 Australian Swimming Squad, Strauch has now emulated the feat of her childhood swimming idol by becoming a dual Olympian herself. 

Strauch, a Bond University Bachelor of Biomedical Science graduate and Hancock Prospecting Swimming Excellence Scholarship recipient, won the 100m and placed second in the 200m breaststroke events at the 2024 Australian Swimming Trials in June. 

Although she fell short of extraordinarily tough Australian Olympic qualifying benchmarks at the Trials, her previous achievement of the 200m qualifying standard and her victory in the 100m final were enough to see her achieve Olympic selection for a second time.

“I am relieved and incredibly honoured,” Strauch said after the Paris 2024 squad was announced. 

“As people are rightly pointing out, this is an incredibly talented group of athletes and it’s a privilege to be among them.”

Elijah Winnington  

Elijah Winnington in front of the Arch
Elijah Winnington 

When Elijah Winnington steps up to the blocks at the Paris Olympic pool, he will offer up a short prayer, do a quick mental run through of all the reasons he belongs there and remind himself to have fun.

The Hancock Prospecting Swimming Excellence Scholarship recipient and Bachelor of Business student, clinched gold in his two pet events the 400m and 800m freestyle at the Australian Swimming to earn a prestigious Dolphins cap for his second Olympics where he will also be a part of the 4X200m freestyle relay at Paris’ La Defense Arena. 

This year's games are a chance for redemption for Winnington who finished 7th in the final of the 400m freestyle at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, a heartbreaking result which almost led him to give up swimming.

Linking up with mindfulness coach Glen Fisher helped him bury some demons and rediscover the joy of swimming.   

“I had a really dark six months following Tokyo,” he said. 

“However, my mind coach invigorated something new in me, I was intrigued to see how I could use my experience to push me forward.

“I have had some great swims over the past few since Tokyo, so I think drawing on every single one of those will definitely give me some confidence knowing I’ve done it before in the past. 

“I’m not a very superstitious or ritualistic guy but I always get on one knee before the race and say a quick prayer to relax myself.’’

Winnington goes into Paris with confidence after becoming World Champion in 2022 and having many successful swims over the past three years.”

Omar Abbass 

Omar Abbass Olympics
Omar Abbass

Every swimmer knows about commitment, the 5am starts rain, hail or shine makes sure of that.

But few can lay claim to the level of determination shown by Bond Olympian Omar Abbass. 

Many times he could have been excused for giving up on his Olympic dream. 

There was the day the bombs rained down on his training complex during his country’s civil war, destroying the pool and claiming four lives.

“I was swimming in a 100m training race when the first bomb went off. I jumped straight out of the pool, went to the change rooms and got out. The first bomb hit the hotel and then the second bomb hit the pool,” he said.

“There were about 12 that went off in the attack. It killed a football player and three other people who were staying in the hotel next door.

“It was crazy. We are lucky to be alive.”

His luck changed when Bond University signed a partnership with World Aquatics to be the Australian training base for their scholarship athletes from developing swimming nations. 

“To be in a facility like Bond University is like a dream and to even be in Australia is a dream,” he said.

“Going to the Olympics is the big goal for all the athletes in the world and to be an Olympian is the dream, I am very happy to have made it.”  

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