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Concern over COVID-19’s impact on RMIT’s elite student athletes

Student-athletes in RMIT’s Elite Athlete Program (REAP) are growing concerned the COVID-19 lockdown could affect their position in the program.

REAP provides support for elite athletes who are studying at RMIT, to help them balance their sporting commitments with their studies.

Benefits for students in the program include timetabling assistance, assessment flexibility, gym access and free health services.

Matthew Damches. (Image: supplied)

Weightlifter Matthew Damches is in his first year as a REAP athlete and is worried he will lose his spot in the program if he misses competitions at the top level.

“If I don’t get to compete at the national championships then I won’t be able to get into REAP,” Damches said.

With all gyms closed, the Bachelor of Applied Science - Property and Valuation (Honours) student said he has no way to train.

“I can’t train or compete for weightlifting as I don’t have weights at home or space if I had any weights,” he explained.

He said the coronavirus shutdowns were “affecting [him] very badly”.

Other REAP athletes are being similarly affected by training venues closing down.

Canoe slalom and wildwater athlete Kaylen Bassett said his training has been “heavily disrupted” by the closure of the AIS and state institutes.

Bassett studies Construction Management and has been a REAP student-athlete since 2017.

He thinks it is unlikely his place in the REAP program will be affected by COVID-19 closures, but recognises the concern for athletes who aren’t guaranteed spots in the top teams or competitions for their sport.

“I imagine this won’t have a negative effect on my position within REAP as I am still selected in the Australian team and categorised by the AIS, so I still have some status that would be accepted by REAP,” Bassett said.

“But I can see for others the hard part is that you're always training as hard as those going to an event, even if you're not in the ‘A’ team. So you're training as much and as hard to get into the team but don’t have any status the uni or others can recognise. So you’re actually trying to do more but getting less than others.”

Despite some difficulty in being allowed to transition to online study whilst training and competing in Sydney or overseas, he said the program has been “incredibly helpful” in balancing his commitments.

Coordinator of Elite Athlete Pathways at RMIT, Miachelle Deverell, said “RMIT is supporting REAP students in any way possible” through the coronavirus crisis.

She added that REAP students should contact her directly if they have any concerns about their place in the program.

REAP supports over 200 elite and emerging student athletes each year.

An Elite Athletes Scholarship worth $10,000 is also available to REAP athletes and is yet to be awarded this year after applications closed mid-March.


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