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From science scholar to sporting star, Moesha earns Olympic Games selection

Southern Cross University alumna Moesha Johnson swimming


Tamara Hamilton
27 March 2024

As Southern Cross University alumna and scholarship recipient Moesha Johnson prepares for the Olympic Games in the gruelling sport of Open Water Swimming, this humble former student ambassador expresses gratitude to her supportive university community.

Exhausted from a punishing schedule at her German training base, then a secluded Spanish camp, it’s little wonder Olympic qualifier, Moesha Johnson has been dubbed the FIFO swimmer.

The 26-year-old Tweed Heads local gazes out at the snow-covered high-altitude training centre in the Sierra Nevada mountain range that she will call home for three weeks.

She has had little time to celebrate becoming World Champion in Doha, as part of the Australian mixed 4 X 1500m Open Water relay team, and her selection in the Australian Dolphins, despite just missing out on a solo medal.

Moesha casts her mind forward to the momentous challenge that lies ahead in August when, under the world spotlight, she will race 10 kilometres along the River Seine, through the heart of Paris, realising her dream.

Don’t be fooled by the romantic destinations. The sport of long-distance Open Water Swimming, that brings her to these glamorous cities, is brutal.

Moesha can’t wait for Australians to fall in love with the spectacle that blends endurance and strategy.

“It’s a tactical choice, when to fuel and when to make moves,” she said. “You have waves pushing you and everyone is on top of each other. It’s absolutely chaotic.”

β€œIt’s truly special when people believe in you before you’re a champion. β€

Swimmer Moesha Johnson poses in a pool

What might give Moesha an edge over rivals is her fascination with the science behind elite performance.

Her curiosity about human health was behind her decision to study a Bachelor of Biomedical Science.

Supported by a Summerland Bank Rising Star scholarship, Moesha was among the first Biomedical graduates from Southern Cross University (Gold Coast) in 2019 - life-changing, in many ways.

“I was the first in my family to go to university,” she said. “With the scholarship, I felt like I had an extended support network, beyond my family.”

“It’s truly special when people believe in you before you’re a champion. To have people notice you when you feel smaller, words can’t describe what that means.”

Her silver medal in the pool at the World University Games, in the final year of her degree, was a major turning point.

“It confirmed for me, that’s what I wanted to do,” she said. “But being a student athlete is really tough.”

“I wouldn’t be able to say today that I am a swimmer if I hadn’t had that support from Southern Cross University and my scholarship.

The pressures would have pushed me out of the sport.”

Summerland Bank Chief Executive Officer, John Williams extended his team’s best wishes to Moesha, during the bank's 30th year as a scholarship sponsor, and said how deeply honoured they are to have played a small role in her remarkable journey from academic excellence to Olympic qualification.

“Moesha’s unwavering dedication and resilience are truly inspiring, and we beam with pride as she represents Australia on the global stage,” John said. “Her success stands as a testament to her tireless efforts and determination.”

Her academic and sporting worlds continue to blend.

“I’m always networking with people in the science and medical fields. I enjoy understanding what they’re talking about on a molecular level. My degree is definitely something that has helped me in my sport,” she said.

Moesha will need every advantage she can get, as she strives to also qualify for the 1500m pool event inside Paris La Defense Arena, the week prior to the open water swim. 

“It’s something I want to accomplish, to get into both,” she said. She will know if she’s been successful in June, after the Australian Titles.

β€œI wouldn’t be able to say today that I am a swimmer if I hadn’t had that support from Southern Cross University and my scholarship.”

Swimmer Moesha Johnson holds her World Championship Open Swimming gold medal

“I’m doing it for myself and the ones who believed in me all those years ago, when I didn’t necessarily believe in myself. That support will mean more to me in Paris than it ever has.”

This humble athlete then wants nothing more than to celebrate on Australian soil surrounded by her family and farm animals, enjoy a local coffee and a dip at Kirra.

“I want to say, ‘You believed in me then, and look! I’m here now. I’ve done it!”

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