The Games we play: Liz Brett, Alumna and Olympian
It was 1992 and Liz Brett was watching the Barcelona Olympics on TV when she tuned into the volleyball. “That’s amazing,” the 13-year-old thought.
It was the year a young, powerful Cuban women’s team beat the ‘Unified Team’ – players from the remnant countries of the recently collapsed Soviet Union. It was the first of three consecutive gold medals for Cuba.
In the men’s competition, Brazil was the surprise winner in a contest dominated until then by what was known as the Eastern Bloc.
Brett had never touched a volleyball but she knew her school offered the sport. “I’m going to give it a go,” she decided. Eight years later she was representing Australia in volleyball at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Today Brett is Chief Executive of ActivateUTS, the organisation that provides all student health, sport and leisure within the University of Technology Sydney and an alumna of the Executive MBA program at UTS Business School.
This year, a new generation of athletes – many of them to be found in the elite and emerging athletes’ programs run by universities such as UTS – is preparing for the latest Olympic Games, Rio 2016.
Brett recalls how she and her teammates trained six days a week for five years – for a total of 7.5 hours court time at the Sydney 2000 Games. For some people the maths might not add up, but she has no regrets. “As much as you give, it gives back,” she says.
“We spent eight months on the road every year. We were poor, we were away from our family and friends,” Brett says. “But to play any sport at the highest level, at home, in front of your family – and Sydney was the first time my parents had seen me play at an international level – you can’t beat that.”
The memory that will stay with her from the 2000 Games is the moment she walked with the Australian team into the stadium at the Opening Ceremony.
“There were 100,000 people, and we were the last to walk in, as the home team. It was deafening. You could feel it running through you,” she says. “I looked up and I saw my mum and dad above us, as we were going out. My parents ran down to the exit and lifted me up into the stadium and hugged me. The next day we had our first game – and it was business as usual.”
So what’s Brett looking forward to, as an onlooker this year? Her pick is the beach volleyball.
The Rio Olympic Games will be held from August 5 to 21 in Brazil.
Story by Lesley Parker
Photography by Damien Pleming
This article first appeared in the 2016 edition of #think magazine. For more articles and profiles read the full issue here.
To learn more about the Executive MBA Program at UTS, visit the UTS Business School.
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