My Champions - An Olympian’s Story

Angeline Blackburn (BA (Archaeology) '15 and BSc (Physiology) '15)
8 March 2022

I knew from a young age that I wanted to be an Olympian. When I was 10, Mum would travel 70 kilometres every Saturday and take us to Little Athletics over at the next town. That was back when we lived in Cann River, a town of about 200 people in East Gippsland, Victoria. Mum was studying by correspondence at University - so not only was she supportive of my dreams, she also instilled in me the value of good education and knowledge.

When I was in Year 7, Mum decided she wanted to go back to University to take a Bachelor of Law. And so, before I knew it, she was taking me and my younger brother to Canberra, where she'd be studying at ANU. We went from a little country town to what I thought was this big city where my high school was four times the size my hometown!

We found an amazing sense of community at the Tjabal Centre. Mum would be doing her tutorials, and my brother and I would be at the centre, studying or playing or eating free biscuits and Milos. I already felt a part of the ANU family, with Canberra being my adopted country.

I saw university as the next stepping-stone and as the natural thing to balance with my sport. And of course, ANU was my first choice. I already had familiarity with it. It was the best university in Australia. But also Mum had studied and been supported here.

Both Mum and I studied similar art subjects like Indigenous studies, history and anthropology. I really enjoyed comparing what I was learning to how Mum had tackled the same courses. I'd bounce off theoretical ideas or history, different readings or tasks with her - I had a personal tutor in Mum.

I particularly remember my course in Archaeological Theory. Back then, I was more of an introvert. I had a different perspective and takes on history, but I wasn't always brave enough to voice them. My course convenor, Associate Professor Catherine J Frieman, would notice and get me to come out of my shell. She was really influential in my growth.

It was pretty incredible when I did qualify for the Olympics. One key highlight for me, when I got to Tokyo was knowing there were fifteen other Indigenous athletes with me - it made me feel like I had family over there too. As Indigenous athletes, you represent your community and are an extension of your community. You look after each other, support each other, and encourage each other to be the best versions of yourselves.

I spent a good 10 years at the ANU in total. I've been surrounded by genuine people who care about students and want to see them do well. My community at the Tjabal Centre, like my fellow Olympians, gave me camaraderie and unconditional support. And of course, I always had Mum - my fellow alumna, my tutor, role model, and support. I've been very lucky to have these champions for life and hope you find yours at ANU.

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