Rising swim stars Madeline Groves and Alex Graham are each capping off a stellar year in the pool, receiving a prestigious Georgina Hope Rinehart Swimming Excellence Scholarship to study at Bond University on the Gold Coast.
Madeline and Alex are the inaugural recipients of the scholarship, which provides opportunities and support to complete their studies, while competing at an elite level.
The students will receive personal mentoring from Swimming Australia and Bond’s stable of Olympic swimming champions, along with tuition and living expenses, thanks to the financial support of the Georgina Hope Foundation.
Madeline, whose back-to-back victories in the 200 metre Butterfly at the 2013 and 2014 Australian National Championships has seen her touted as a potential heir to the 'Madame Butterfly' title, was part of the Australian swim squad competing at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
"It was a life-changing event," said the Brisbane 19-year-old.
"I was fortunate enough to race in the heats for the 100 metre and 200 metre Freestyle relays, which was an honour as it is such a prestigious event, and I also made the semi-final in the 50 metre Butterfly.
"It was an extraordinary opportunity to represent my country alongside my friends and teammates."
Alex, 19, is also making waves in swimming circles and treading a similar path to success as his idol, Olympic Gold Medallist Michael Klim.
"In 2012, I broke Michael Klim's 1995 Victorian record for 17 to 18-year-olds for the 200 metre Freestyle, bettering his record by 0.7 seconds," he said.
"It was a very surreal moment, especially considering he is such a huge source of inspiration to me."
The Melbourne sporting prodigy won his first Victorian State Title at the age of 13 and has never looked back.
"As a kid, I played every kind of sport that you can think of - AFL, rugby, cricket - but winning that title really ignited my passion for swimming," he said.
"My greatest highlight to date is making the Australian team to compete in the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona - it was a dream come true for me – and I'm now in training for the 2015 World Championships, with the long-term goal of qualifying for the Rio Olympics in 2016."
Both students look set to replicate their success in the pool when they embark upon their degrees at Bond University in 2015 - Alex has enrolled in a Bachelor of Business and Madeline is planning to study a Bachelor of Social Science.
Bond University Director of Sport, Garry Nucifora, said the Georgina Hope Rinehart Swimming Excellence Scholarship was among the most prestigious available to young sporting hopefuls in Australia.
"As part of the Georgina Hope Rinehart Swimming Excellence Scholarship, Madeline and Alex will be provided with a unique mentoring experience through both Swimming Australia and Bond Swimming Ambassadors, which includes a number of Bond University Olympic and Commonwealth Games Gold Medallists," he said.
"Access to these ambassadors, who possess a wealth of knowledge of the industry, is an invaluable advantage to an up-and-coming swimmer, as they can help positively shape the development of the student's sporting performance and also prepare them for life beyond sport.
“With the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast fast approaching, the ability to train here with this expert guidance is really the chance of a lifetime.”
Swimming Australia President John Bertrand said the scholarship provided an opportunity for promising young swimmers to expand their knowledge and develop their professional careers away from the pool.
“We are excited to be a part of the program and look forward to contributing to the mentoring of these young swimmers. The scholarship is important in recognising the hard work our swimmers do in the water and rewards them with sufficient development opportunities out of the water,” he said.
“Both Madeline and Alex have proven they have what it takes to compete on the global stage and we will be available to offer the support and guidance they need to continue moving forward in both their swimming and professional careers.
"On behalf of Swimming Australia I would like to thank Bond University and Dr Gina Rinehart for their support with this important initiative.”
Dr Rinehart, who was awarded the Australian Olympic Committee’s Order of Merit for, inter alia, her long standing support of Australian swimming earlier this year, said it was vital to continually invest in the next generation of sporting champions.
“Both swimmers have been selected based on their sporting ability and leadership quality, which is extremely important in developing elite athletes who will also be role models for future generations,” said Dr Rinehart.
“The scholarship will allow them to focus on their pursuits in the pool, and to gain a world class education, without the financial pressure young athletes face in achieving their sporting and career goals.”