National swimming champions Jenna Strauch and Laura Taylor have been awarded the celebrated Georgina Hope Rinehart Swimming Excellence Scholarship to study at Bond University in 2017.
The Scholarship, which was first offered in 2014, is one of the most prestigious sporting scholarships in Australia, giving recipients the opportunity to compete at an elite level while gaining a first-class Australian education.
2016 Rio Olympic silver medallist, Maddie Groves, was awarded the scholarship in 2014 and is currently studying a Bachelor of Social Sciences at Bond and competing internationally.
Bendigo-born 19-year-old Jenna Strauch has competed at an international level, representing Australia in the 2013 World Junior Swimming Championships in Dubai in the 50 metre, 100 metre and 200 metre breaststroke.
She also swam for Australia in the 2013 Youth Olympics Festival in Sydney, where she won two gold medals and broke two world records.
Jenna was a Victorian Institute of Sport (VIC) scholarship holder for three years from 2013 and trained at the Melbourne Vicentre Swimming Club from 2011 to 2016 under Olympic and national swimming coach, Ian Pope, and former Olympic swimmer, Craig Jackson.
She took home a silver medal at the Australian Long Course Open National Championships in 2013 for the 200 metre breaststroke, narrowly missing the World Championship team, but qualifying for the World Junior Championships.
Earlier this year, Jenna moved to Bond University Swimming Club to train under Head Coach Richard Scarce in preparation for the 2016 Hancock Prospecting Australian Swimming Championships where she placed sixth in the 200 metre breaststroke and seventh in 100 metre breaststroke, with personal best times in each race.
Jenna, who was crowned the fastest 15-year-old female breaststroker in Australia in 2012 after taking out the 100 metre and 200 metre double at the Australian Age Swimming Trials, is excited to pursue her degree in a Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences at Bond University in 2017.
"The boundless discoveries made and extended through science and medicine that improve humanity and its purpose really inspire me and is why I have chosen to study Biomedical Science at Bond next year," she said.
“I can't wait to begin as a student as I have already fallen in love with Bond Swimming Club. It has been a perfect fit for me to pursue my swimming aspirations.
"Bond Swimming Club is such a positive environment where I can interact with like-minded people across different ages and strive for success while having a lot of fun.
"Swimming has always been part of my life. My Dad and I used to swim together when I was younger back in Bendigo. We'd get up early and I would go and swim with him but I always finished my laps first, which is why I decided to join a squad and I haven't looked back."
Jenna said she had high hopes for the future with aspirations to make the next Olympics.
"I have recently competed in Singapore and Tokyo for the final World Cup series where I gained more international racing experience," she said.
"I have a lot of smaller goals for my studies in the future but my next major sporting goal is to qualify for the Open Australian swim team and to represent Australia at the 2020 Olympic Games.
"Ultimately, I'm excited to do my best and make my mark in the pool, while striving towards a career where I can combine my love for science and medicine to enrich the lives of others."
17-year-old St Hilda's School student, Laura Taylor, has her sights set firmly on the next Olympic Games as a member of the 2020 Target Tokyo Team.
2016 has been a big year for the talented dual butterfly/freestyle swimmer who also made the Australian Junior Pan Pac Team, the Queensland Short Course Team and for the third consecutive year - the Queensland Talent Identification squad.
At the Rio Olympic trials (2016 Hancock Prospecting Australian Swimming Championships), Laura took home bronze in the 200 metre butterfly. She also won five gold medals at this year’s Georgina Hope Foundation Australian Age Championships in the 200 metre butterfly, 200 metre freestyle, 400 metre freestyle, 800 metre freestyle and the 4 x 200 metre freestyle relay.
Laura currently holds the All Comers Record for the 16 years 200 metre butterfly for both South Australia and New South Wales.
Laura said she was looking forward to learning more about the functionality and capability of the human body when she begins a Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science at Bond in 2017.
"My mum first took me to swimming lessons when I was only six months old and I have just never stopped swimming," she said.
"I consider myself a competitive person with a strong drive to win which is why I decided to swim competitively.
"Reaching the 2018 Commonwealth Games is my next big swimming challenge, however outside of the pool, it is to become a physiotherapist.
"I'm really interested in seeing how the body works and which muscles are used while training and competing to help maximise sporting success.
"Becoming a physiotherapist will not only help me to understand my body and how it works to a greater degree, but to assist other athletes and sports enthusiasts to reach their goals."
Patron of the Scholarship program and long standing supporter of both Bond University and Swimming Australia, Mrs Gina Rinehart said she recognised the importance of investing in future generations of swimmers while providing them with a quality education.
"This scholarship gives elite athletes a platform to launch their academic and sporting careers simultaneously," she said.
"Both Laura and Jenna have displayed the qualities necessary to receive this prestigious award and I wish them all the best."
Bond University's Executive Director of Sport, Garry Nucifora, said the Georgina Hope Rinehart Swimming Excellence Scholarship would also provide a unique mentoring experience for the recipients.
"Our Bond alumni includes an impressive cohort of Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medal swimmers that are on hand to provide both career and sport mentoring, and techniques to help our athletes prepare for life beyond sport," he said.
Bond University Chancellor, the Honourable Dr Annabelle Bennett AO SC said the Scholarship provided the students with incredible opportunities.
"In the two years that this scholarship has been offered, the recipients have grasped every opportunity Bond has provided to make their mark on the world stage,” she said.
"We look forward to seeing Jenna and Laura thrive in the pool and excel in their studies, following in the footsteps of their fellow scholarship recipients like Olympian Maddie Groves."