The Monash area will send a blend of athletes to the London Olympics. BRAD McGRATH and ROY WARD spoke with shot-putter Dale Stevenson and diver James Connor.
POWERHOUSE Monash University shot-putter Dale Stevenson, pictured on cover, has established himself as one of Australia's best. His distance of 20.63 metres in May this year made him just the third man from Australia to bust the 20m barrier.
He's in the form of his life and coach Gus Puopolo believes that Stevenson is only going to get better in the future. At just 24, Stevenson has time on his side, with most of the top power athletes not reaching their peak until they near 30.
"He's in good form. Hopefully, he can get through to the finals - getting through the qualifications would be great for him and to throw 20.63 metres shows he can do that," Puopolo says.
"I believe that if he can throw 20.10 metres he can be in the top 10."
Click on the image of Glen Waverley's Benita Willis for our gallery of Monash stars at the Olympic Games.
Stevenson, a Monash University student who is completing his bachelor of education (honours) off campus, says the excitement of going to his first Olympics and earning a reward for his hard work was just beginning to pay off.
"The preparation for London is going really well. I've had an excellent block of training and turning it into some distances.
"We've got a team camp in Cologne in Germany and from there I've got three competitions lined up before the Olympics.
Under Puopolo's watchful eye, out of his Ringwood Athletics base, Stevenson has worked alongside fellow Olympians and Puopolo students Scott Martin and Benn Harradine.
"I think it's only kicked in in the last few weeks - how close it is and how real it's all getting. It's been a long process through qualifying.
"The challenge of qualifying was quite a mountain to climb but I've learned a lot from my peers - those older athletes have been a big help. It's the first time we'll have been on a team together."
Stevenson regularly visits his parents in Mornington and has many friends on the peninsula who will be cheering him on.
"I try and get down there [Mornington] at least once a month."
While Stevenson battles to outmuscle other giants in the shot put, former Glen Waverley diver JAMES CONNOR, will be using finesse and grace to snare a personal best in the Olympic diving.
The 17 year old qualified for his first Games earlier this year with top-two finishes in the 10-metre platform after overcoming stress fractures in his lower back.
Connor had previously represented Australia at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010.
"When you are training for all this time, you assume that it's probably too far out of reach," he says.
"To get selected is amazing. I don't know how to describe it. But to experience this process, this journey is amazing as well.
"I'm going to soak up all the experiences of London."
Connor moved to Brisbane so he could train with Australia's best divers and the national coaches. His family is still based in Glen Waverley, but his mother Joan commutes between the two cities.
Connor will have to wait for his event as it's not scheduled until the the second-last day of competition.
"For me, making the team has been the greatest thank-you I can give to my parents.
"I'm so grateful for everything they have done.
"For any sacrifices I've made, they have made just as many and I hope they feel proud and as much as part of this achievement as I have been."
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