The Victorian Institute of Sport: Where high performance and a purposeful life meet

VIS athletes display how they are excelling in their personal endeavours outside of their chosen sports. These students have struck the balance between managing their sporting and personal commitments which has been recognised by the tertiary institutions they attend.

Success in Sport and Life is more than a feel-good slogan at the Victorian Institute of Sport.

A balance between focussed high performance and deep happiness is heavily promoted with the understanding that there is a symbiotic relationship between the two. One often begets the other.

A team of eight Performance Lifestyle Advisors is dedicated to the holistic wellbeing of VIS athletes.

“Every one of our 450-odd athletes is strongly encouraged to be committed to something other than their sport, be it study, work, a cause or a passion,” Performance Lifestyle Manager, Leesa Gallard, says.

“The evidence is there to say that this approach is beneficial for athletes while they are competing, in terms of results and wellbeing, and certainly important for them in athletic retirement.”

In 2023, 97 per cent of VIS scholarship holders were either studying or working; in essence managing dual careers.

So it was without surprise but much pleasure that a large number of VIS athletes recently won recognition from the tertiary institutions they attend.

Liam Twomey, a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science student and VIS para triathlete, was awarded Deakin University’s Sports Person of Year (disability). In 2023 Twomey has combined his studies with pursuit of a ticket to the 2024 Paralympics in Paris and advocacy on behalf of a number of charitable organisations and causes such as the START Foundation and the Challenge Cancer Support Network.

Aiden Hinson, like Twomey an Exercise and Sport Science student and VIS scholarship holder, won Deakin’s Sports Person of the Year (male) for claiming the national triple jump championship in April.

Archer Imogen Grzemski and diver Natalie Phan both received full blue honours from Deakin for their outstanding sporting achievements in 2023 that were realised while studying; Grzemski being a Bachelor of Sport Development student and Phan a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport Science/Bachelor of Business student.

Emerging sprinter Jessica Milat, who is combining a double degree in Public Health and Commerce, won Deakin’s Elite Athlete Rising Star Award.

Leon Sejranovic received Victoria University’s Athlete of the Year and Rising Star awards for winning a breakthrough medal at the World Taekwondo Championships in Azerbaijan in June. The Bachelor of Exercise Science student and VIS scholarship holder won bronze, Australia’s first Taekwondo World Championship medal in over a decade and competed in 10 countries in 2023 in pursuit of a place on the 2024 Olympic team.

Australian Catholic University awarded a full blue to Reba Stewart, a Bachelor of Psychological Science and Exercise Science student, who is also hoping to get to Paris as a member of the Taekwondo squad. ACU also recognised emerging VIS walker Will Thompson, an exercise science student, who represented Australia at the 2023 World University Games.

Taekwondo athlete Saffron Tambyrajah and walker Jemima Montag, who won silver at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, were recognised by Melbourne University as finalists in their Outstanding Sporting Achievement of the Year award. Tambyrajah is completing a Bachelor of Science degree and Montag a Bachelor of Medicine degree at Melbourne.

Jaryd Clifford, a silver and bronze medallist at the Tokyo Para Olympics as a middle distance and marathon runner, was also a finalist in the university’s Male Athlete of the Year award.

A Bachelor of Arts student, Clifford was awarded a full blue by Melbourne, as were swimmers Sam Williamson (Bachelor of Science), Zoe Deacon (Master of International Studies) and Evan Chee (Bachelor of Biomedicine) and rowers Romy Cantwell (Bachelor of Biomedicine), Sara De Uray (Bachelor of Biomedicine), Zara Lavery (Bachelor of Science) and Damien Schroder (Bachelor of Science).

At RMIT, rower and industrial design student Ben Canham won Athlete of the Year for bronze medals at the 2022 and 2023 world championships with the Australian Mens eight.

Sophie Reinehr, an Australian representative at the 2023 World University Rowing Games and Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science student, received La Trobe's University Full Blue as they recognised her outstanding sporting performances. 

“The life of a high-performance athlete is relatively short whereas life itself is hopefully a much longer experience. There is a lot of living to do once you get out of the pool or walk off the track for the last time,” Gallard says.

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