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Celebrating Wesley's Olympians

As we head towards the Paris Olympics, we celebrate our current Olympians and pay homage to the enduring legacy of more than a century of Old Wesley Collegians (OWs) who have competed in the world’s foremost multi-sport arena.

Olympian map

To date, 40 OW athletes have competed at the Olympics since the modern Games were inaugurated in Athens back in 1896. While they have competed in different sports, they are united by the challenges that come with training and competing at the elite level; be it facing the world’s toughest opponents, dealing with injuries or managing the immense pressure of expectation and anticipation. They are all defined by their courage, resilience and unwavering tenacity.

Four OWs are heading to Paris this year:

Alanna SmithAlanna Smith (OW2014) will take to the court for the Australian Opals women’s basketball team at her second Olympics, having also competed with the Opals at 2020 Tokyo games.

While a student at Wesley, Alanna represented Australia in several international junior tournaments, such as the World and Oceania Championships. Debuting with the Opals in 2017 at the FIBA Asia Cup, Alanna went on to win a silver medal with the team at the 2018 World Cup. In 2019, she was selected by the Phoenix Mercury as 8th pick in the WNBA Draft. Having previously played for Stanford University in the NCAA women’s division in the USA and the Adelaide Lightning in Australia’s WNBL, Alanna is currently enjoying a career-best season with the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA.

Jemima MontagJemima Montag (OW2016) is competing in the 20km race walk. Two years after she left Wesley, Jemima won gold in the 20km race walk at the Brisbane 2018 Commonwealth Games. She then competed in the 20km race walk event in Tokyo 2020, where she came 6th. Last year, she won silver at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, and in February, took first place in the 20km race walk at the Oceania Race Walking Championships. Later this year, she will become a dual Olympian.

‘My greatest lesson from Tokyo was that despite the circus going on around me, I just needed to deliver an ordinary performance on an extraordinary day,’ Jemima says. ‘This motto prompts me to remember the consistent training and competitions I have executed in the lead up, and that all I need is within me.’

Sophie OSullivan

Sophie O’Sullivan (OW2019) is competing in the 1500m, representing Ireland. She won a silver medal in the 800m at the 2018 European Athletics U18 Championships in Hungary. Currently a top-division athlete at the University of Washington in the US, Sophie won gold in the 1500m at the 2023 European Athletics U23 Championships in Finland, and at the Irish National U23 Championships last year, she won gold in both the 800m and 1500m.

‘I picked up a slight injury at the start of the year, but I’m finding the positives and gaining new strengths in new areas – lots of swimming – so that’s offering a fun challenge,’ says Sophie.

Adam SpencerLike Sophie, fellow runner Adam Spencer (OW2019) will line up to compete in the 1500m event. Winning state titles during his primary school years, Adam continued to achieve in athletics throughout his time at Wesley. From 2021–2023, while studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the USA, he set many personal bests and became the fourth-fastest Australian in history to run 1500m.

Last year, in Adam’s debut competing for Australia, he made the semi-finals at the World Championships in Budapest. So far this year while representing his university, Adam has won a silver medal in the NCAA indoor mile and placed third in the NCAA outdoor 1500m.

Alanna, Jemima, Sophie and Adam join a distinguished cadre of Wesley alumni who have reached the pinnacle of athletic endeavour on the Olympic stage – the culmination of a sporting adventure, often begun at Wesley, that saw them dedicate years of their lives to the physical and mental rigours of elite performance.

Frank Beaurepaire

The Wesley Olympic connection reaches right back to 1908, when our first Olympian, Sir Frank Beaurepaire (OW1909), represented Australia in the swimming competition at the London Games, then went on to win silver at Antwerp in 1920, and again at Paris in 1924.

Paul GuestAfter rowing in the Wesley First VIII in 1956 and 1957, Paul Guest ASM OAM KC (OW1957) went on to row at Rome in 1960, Tokyo in 1964, and Mexico City in 1968. Several of Paul’s medals, jackets and pockets are beautifully framed and on display in the Wesley Boat Shed.

Michael KlimTriple Olympian Michael Klim OAM (OW1994) represented Australia in butterfly and freestyle events in swimming at Atlanta in 1996, Sydney in 2000, and at the 2004 Games in Athens. He won medals at all three Olympics, and was our first gold medallist, triumphing in both the 4 x 100m freestyle relay and the 4 x 200m freestyle relay in Sydney.

Wesley Head of Swimming, Janine Bates, has seen her fair share of gifted athletes, and places great importance on learning in the team environment. ‘I work hard to focus on team bonding and building positive team culture in the Wesley Swim Team,’ she says.

Janine worked with triple Olympian Michael Klim OAM (OW1994) while he was at school in the early 90s, coaching him in the Wesley Water Polo Team. ‘Michael could swim down the pool faster than any other player. Sometimes he would play goalkeeper, and the wide wingspan of his arms made it difficult for the opposition to get goals past him!’ she said.

Mark Philippoussis (OW1994) likewise competed in the Games at Atlanta, Sydney and Athens as a key member of the Australian tennis squad.

Anthony Guss (OW1976) was our first winter Olympian, representing Australia at Lake Placid in 1980.

Matt Ryan, Head of Rowing at Wesley, represented Australia at Beijing in 2008 (fours crew, winning silver) and London in 2012 (eights crew, placing 6th). ‘The Beijing Games was the first Olympics for all of our crew. The bond our group had was really special and we were lucky enough to come away with a silver medal. The London Olympics taught me a lot about life not always being smooth sailing, and that you can work incredibly hard for something and still fall short.’

Celebrating the success of our athletes from decades past invites us to look to the future as the baton is passed to the next generation of rising stars from Wesley College. Swimmer Jess (Year 11, Glen Waverley Campus) and runner Austin (Year 11, St Kilda Road Campus) were inspired by our Olympian alumni who shared their journey to the Olympics and gave advice on competing at the top at the recent Founders’ Day lunch.

Jess made a very big splash at the recent Oceania Championships on the Gold Coast as a member of the Australian Junior Swimming team, competing in three individual events and three relay events – and winning gold in every single one of them! At just 16 years of age, she is the highest ranked swimmer in her age group in Victoria.

'It’s never been a goal of mine to make the Australian Junior team, but it was always at the back of my mind that if I put in the effort, I could achieve it,' said Jess.

Jess (Year 11) shows her Australian Swimming Team cap to Michael Klim OAM (OW1994)

Asked for advice about how to balance school life with training, Michael, who completed the IB DP over two years around his swimming commitments, said ‘You need to be diligent and have structure in your day. It’s a juggling act and you will miss out on a lot, so you need a strong support team around you as well as a clear purpose about why you’re doing it… sport is such a tiny spec in your lifetime, it goes by so fast. The older I get, the more grateful I become for the opportunities I have had’.

Middle distance runner Austin is nothing if not resilient. After becoming national champion over 800m in the Australian U17 Championships last year, he suffered a broken foot, but made a great comeback to become the Victorian 400m champion in February this year. Following further strong performances in the National U18 Championships in April, he competed for Australia in the U18 400m at the Oceania Athletics Championships in Fiji.

For Austin, the goal is clear. ‘I want to qualify for an Olympics. To represent my country in the Olympics, arguably the most prestigious athletic event on the calendar and be called an Olympian would be a dream come true,’ he said.

Emma Carney (OW1989) with rising athletics star, Austin (Year 11)

For Head of Sport, Dan Church, the strength of the Wesley sports program is that it delivers both a performance and a participation pathway. ‘In any given cohort, there will be students who simply like playing and participating with their friends, but for others, sport will provide them with the foundations that may take them on to state, national or international representation. We hope sport is where Wesley students find connection and lay down life-long memories of their time at school,’ he said.

We are all immensely proud of our current, past and emerging Wesley Olympians.  Whether it’s winning a medal, achieving a personal best, or simply being part of the Olympic experience, the Wesley community celebrates your achievement with you. As Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics said, ‘The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part; the important thing in life is not triumph, but the struggle; the essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.’

Our OW Olympian athletes at Wesley's recent Founders' Day Lunch (L-R): Alistair Guss (OW1982), Jodie Dobson (OW1987), Bob Duncan OAM (OW1949), Natalie Porter (OW1998), Michael Klim OAM (OW1994), Elle Steele (OW2001), Robert Crowe (OW1986), Katya Crema (OW2006), Nick Lavery (OW2016) and College Principal, Nick Evans (OW1985)