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The University of Queensland is set to send more of its finest athletes to Rio – this time for the 2016 Paralympic Games.

Students, graduates and members of the UQ community will represent Australia in swimming, shooting, goalball and wheelchair rugby, as well as assist in behind-the-scenes roles such as athlete classification.

UQ Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Peter Høj said he was delighted to see past and present students competing at both the Rio Olympics and the Paralympics.

“The athletes’ dedication to training, team spirit and hard work are an inspiration to others, and particularly to students who are combining study with elite-level sport,” Professor Høj said.

“UQ welcomes elite athletes, and we have scholarships and partnerships to support our students in achieving their very best both within their chosen sports and at their studies.

“I thoroughly enjoyed watching the progress of our students and alumni at the Rio Olympics, including a bronze medal performance by Sports Achievement Scholarship holder Dane Bird-Smith in the Men’s 20km Walk and a bronze medal performance by current student Maddison Keeney in the Women’s 3m Synchronised Springboard event.

“I’ll be just as eagerly following the progress of our Paralympians as they compete in Rio de Janeiro.”

UQ students and graduates competing at the 2016 Rio Paralympics

Brenden Hall  – Swimming (S9 & SM9 classes)

Brendan, a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Sciences student, UQ Sports Achievement Scholarship recipient and UQ Blue winner, will compete in up to eight events (S9 & SM9 classes) in Rio – his third Paralympics.

The 23-year-old will defend his Paralympic title in the 400m Freestyle, and also race in the 50m and 100m Freestyle, 100m Butterfly and Backstroke, and the 200m Individual Medley.

Brenden hopes to swim in Australia’s S9 4x100m Freestyle and S9 4x100m Medley Relay teams, in which he won a gold and bronze medal respectively at the 2012 London Paralympics.

Brenden began swimming at the age of four, and had his right leg amputated at age six due to complications arising from chicken pox – the same condition that caused him to lose 70 per cent of his hearing. Brenden serves as an ambassador for the Sporting Wheelies and the Disabled Association Queensland.

Brad Mark – Shooting (SH2 class – 10m Standing Air Rifle & 10m Air Rifle Prone)

Brad, a School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences PhD student, took up shooting in 2004 after being told participating in a sport would mean he no longer needed to attend weekly physiotherapy sessions. Brad’s Paralympic Games debut came at London 2012, where he set a new Oceania record and equalled both the Paralympic and world records in the 10m Air Rifle Prone (SH2) event.

Brad has incomplete quadriplegia as the result of the effects of bacterial meningitis contracted at the age of 35.  He works with service dogs who are specifically trained to help people with disabilities.

Brad Mark - Photo courtesy of Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association

Raissa Martin – Goalball (B3 class)

Raissa, a Graduate Diploma of Education student, will make her Paralympic Games debut in Rio for Australia’s Women’s Goalball team. The 25-year-old started playing Goalball in 2012 as a social activity, representing Australia two years later.

Raissa describes her vision impairment as Rod Monochromatism and has been legally blind since birth. She works for Aid for the Blind as a Computer Club Mentor and also coaches goalball in a voluntary capacity.

Thomas Thapper – Sports Psychologist

Thomas, a Sports Psychologist graduate, will travel to Rio as the psychologist for the Australian Paralympic swimming team.

Other members of the UQ community heading to the 2016 Rio Olympics:

Blake Cochrane – Swimming (SB7 & S8 classes)

Blake is a UQ Blue winner – UQ’s most prestigious sporting award – as well as a former Sport and Exercise Science student and UQ Sporting Scholarship recipient.

A two-time Paralympian, Blake will compete in up to five events in Rio, including SB7 100m Breaststroke, S8 50m, 100m and 400m Freestyle, and the S8 4x100m Freestyle Relay.

Blake has multiple congenital limb deficiencies affecting his hands and his feet.

Dr Emma Beckman – Paralympic Classifier

A lecturer in the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences, Emma is an expert in Paralympic Classification.

Her primary role in Rio will be to determine the eligibility of athletes with intellectual impairments.

Katja Dedekind – Swimming (S13 class)

Katja is a member of the UQ Swim Club and is the youngest representative on Australia’s Paralympic team.

The 15-year-old vision-impaired swimmer, who is coached by UQ Sport Head Swimming Coach David Heyden, won four youth gold medals at June’s IDM Paralympic swimming event in Berlin.

Katja will compete in the 50m, 100m and 400m Freestyle, and 100m Backstroke (S13 class).

Katja Dedekind, Paralympic swimmer

Chris Bond – Wheelchair Rugby (3.5 class)

An ambassador for the CO-ADD project, Chris was a member of Australia’s gold medal-winning Wheelchair Rugby team at the 2012 London Paralympics.

At the age of 19, Chris lost his limbs to a bacterial infection after being diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.

Torita Isaac – Athletics (T38 class – 400m & 4x100m Relay)

A UQ Athletics Club member, Torita will compete in her second Paralympics after debuting at London 2012 as a 17-year-old.

Born with Cerebral Palsy and a vision impairment, Torita first tried athletics at school and credits fellow Indigenous Australian athlete, Cathy Freeman, as her inspiration for taking up the sport.

Elite athlete program at UQ

Just like Paralympic competitor Brenden Hall, many of UQ’s Rio Olympians and Paralympians have benefitted from UQ Sport Academy support.

UQ Sporting Scholarships give students access to first-class sporting facilities, financial assistance, competition grants, specialist sport services, tutoring and athlete workshops.

The Elite Athlete Friendly University (EAFU) program also supports high-performing student-athletes as they manage study and their sporting careers.

Media: Kate Bishop, UQ Communications, k.bishop3@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3365 1130; Jamie Mitchell, UQ Sport, jamiem@uqsport.com.au or +61 7 3346 7518.