ACU well represented in Rio

Published: Tuesday 16th August 2016

In total, the 2016 Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games has eight ACU students (past and present) competing.

Leading ACU’s largest presence at any games is ACU’s most successful Paralympic athlete Ellie Cole, who already sports nine Paralympic medals and will again be favoured to star in a host of swimming events at her third games. She will be joined by Australia’s first Olympian and Paralympian table tennis star Melissa ‘Milly’ Tapper. Occupational Therapy student Emma Tonegato was part of the successful women’s Rugby Sevens team and Alumnus Grant Nel will compete in the men's 3m springboard semi final today.

ACU Business student Mack Horton not only won ACU’s first medal of the games, he was successful in claiming Australia’s first gold medal in the 400 metres Men’s Freestyle Swimming final on the morning of Sunday, 7 August.  Mack held off defending Olympic champion Sun Yang from China to become the sixth Australian to win gold in the 400 metres freestyle joining the likes of sporting greats Ian Thorpe and Murray Rose.

Exercise and Sports Science student Anabelle Smith starred in the diving pool winning bronze in the women's synchronized 3m springboard while nursing graduate Paul Adams competed in his first Olympics in the skeet shooting event.

Nursing graduate, Rachael Lynch hoped to end a run of three Olympics without a medal for the Hockeyroos, however New Zealand proved too strong in the quarter finals winning 4-2.

Many students and alumni have benefitted from being part of the Elite Athlete and Performer Program (EAPP), which has provided assistance to student athletes competing at the elite level, such as our Olympic and Paralympic stars.

Find out more about the EAPP at

Keep up to date on the latest from our ACU Olympic and Paralympic stars via ACU Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Meet the ACU Rio Olympic and Paralympic athletes:

Current Students:

Ellie Cole (Paralympics)
Sport: Swimming (freestyle and backstroke)
Course: Bachelor of Health and Exercise Science

The golden girl of ACU’s Rio contingent, Ellie will be competing at her third Paralympics looking to add to her nine Paralympic medals (including four gold medals). At 24, Ellie is at the peak of her powers having come back from a career-threatening shoulder injury in 2013. Ellie was made a Member of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2014.

Emma Tonegato (Olympics)
Sport: Rugby Sevens (back)
Course: Bachelor of Occupational Therapy

2016 has been a breakout year for Emma as she played a leading role in the Australian team that won the Women’s World Sevens Series title, establishing herself as one of the best players in the world at just 21. Rio saw her create history in winning the first Olympic gold medal for Rugby Sevens.

Mack Horton (Olympics)
Sport: Swimming (freestyle 1500m, 400m and 4x200m relay)
Course: Bachelor of Business

Seen as the next champion in Australia’s long line of 1500-metre freestyle stars, Mack has already clocked the second fastest time over the distance by an Australian. The 20-year-old might be destined to be the next face of Weet-Bix, consuming seven before morning training and a whopping 15 afterwards.

Anabelle Smith (Olympics)
Sport: Diving (3m springboard synchronised)
Course: Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science

After a 5th place finish at the 2012 London Olympics, Anabelle will be excited with her podium finish in Rio to add to her Commonwealth Games (2010 and 2014) and World Championship (2011) bronze medals. The 23-year-old has been an EAPP athlete since 2013.


Melissa “Milly” Tapper (Olympics and Paralympics)
Sport: Table Tennis (singles and team event)
Course: Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science

Milly has already etched her name in sporting folklore becoming the first Australian athlete to qualify for the Olympic and Paralympics, earning selection for both competitions as part of the table tennis team. The 26-year-old will be eyeing off a medal in the Paralympic competition after a 4th place finish in London four years ago.

Rachael Lynch (Olympics)
Sport: Hockey (goalkeeper)
Course: Bachelor of Nursing

After a decade in the Hockeyroos program, Rachael’s Olympic dream has finally come true in Rio. A mainstay around the women’s hockey team since 2006, the 30-year-old has two Commonwealth Games gold medals to her name.

Paul Adams (Olympics)
Sport: Shooting (skeet)
Course: Bachelor of Nursing

One of the most recent graduates from ACU, Paul completed his studies at the end of 2015 and has wasted little time becoming a theatre nurse in Brisbane and our latest Olympian. After narrowly missing out on the London Games, the 23-year-old has enjoyed a stellar 2015 and 2016 to earn one of two spots for Rio.

Grant Nel (Olympics)
Sport: Diving
Course: Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science

Born in South Africa, Grant has made Australia his home, finally breaking through for his first Olympic campaign after two Commonwealth Games, four World Cups and five World Championships. Grant has athletics in his genes, with his mother representing South Africa at the Gymnastic World Championships.