Middle distance runner Simon Rogers will carry the hopes of Southern Cross University and his home country New Zealand on his shoulders when he competes at the World University Games this week.
Also known as the 29th Summer Universiade, the Games will be held in Taipei August 19 – 30, with more than 20 sports from archery to wushu.
Simon, a PhD candidate from the University’s School of Health and Human Sciences at its Lismore campus in Northern NSW, will take on the 1500m running event in the track and field contest, with his first heat on Wednesday, August 23.
“This is the most prestigious event I have ever competed in, so it was a huge achievement for me to make this team by running a new personal best of 3:44,” he said.
“It’s an honour - I’m not only representing New Zealand but also Southern Cross University. The University has given so much support especially towards the funding to get me to such a big global multi-sport event. I’m excited to give it everything and experience first-hand a truly global event.”
Now based in Canberra where he works and conducts his doctoral research at the Australian Institute of Sport, Simon left New Zealand after high school on an athletic scholarship to study sport science in the United States.
After completing his Master’s degree back in New Zealand, he recently made the move across the ditch to begin his PhD journey.
To meet the qualifying standards for the World Uni Games, Simon first ran at the New Zealand National Championships in March, then embarked on a self-funded trip back to the American cities of Boston and Nashville to chase the required standard and new personal bests. His successful run at the Nashville Music City Distance Carnival in June lead him to being officially selected by Athletics New Zealand.
“I had to run faster than I have before to meet the standard and it was quite rigorous. Only 13 of us have been selected for athletics from our side of the ditch, compared to around 40 Aussies,” he said.
For Simon, it’s been a long ‘up and down’ running career due to injury and moving countries during his academic pursuits, though his goal is to continue representing New Zealand remains.
“In Nashville I was running alongside a Canadian Olympian and American Collegiate (NCAA) champion – it was a great race,” Simon said.
“My dad Tony Rogers was a national running coach and former Olympian in the 1500m back in 1984. He was finishing his running career when I was young and before working for the national sporting body, so I was always around really high-level athletes as a kid.
“I’d like to make a senior New Zealand team for the Commonwealth Games and I’m always striving to compete at an Olympic Games – it’s the pinnacle of sport.”
As a sport science student, Simon said he would also like to transition into a coaching or consulting role, helping other athletes balance their training commitments and the bumps along the way.
His PhD industry project with the Australian Institute of Sport is focused on different methods of developing and training teenage pre-elite athletes through an AIS-developed online platform.
Southern Cross University Elite Athlete Program coordinator Dave Graham said more than 130 countries would be represented at the World Uni Games.
“We wish Simon all the best as he represents his country and our University on the world stage,” Mr Graham said.
When he returns from Taipei, Simon is hoping to represent Southern Cross University at the Australian University Games on the Gold Coast from September 25-29.
Media contact: Jessica Huxley 0417288794