Science - June 30, 2005

Wageningen attracts athletes

International students think about many different things before deciding that Wageningen is ‘the place to be’ for their MSc. Some even take the sports opportunities into consideration before making the definitive choice. This was certainly the case for Matt Brown (24), an Australian student who has just finished four months on the EU-Australia LEAFSE exchange programme.

The athletics track and the student athletics club Tartlétos were important reasons for Matt to choose Wageningen. ‘If you look on the LEAFSE website you’ll see that there are a number of universities involved in this programme, including ones in Denmark, Wales and Germany. I couldn’t make up my mind between Kassel in Germany and Wageningen. It was only after I found out that Wageningen has an athletics track and an active student athletics club that I was sure I wanted to go to Wageningen.’

Matt arrived in Wageningen on a snowy day in February and since then he has won several competitions. He won at the meeting in Apeldoorn with a discus throw of 52.19 metres. This was 57 cm short of his own club record, which he set on 15 May this year when he won the Dutch Student Championships. He also became the first student ever from Wageningen University to throw the discus further than 50 metres, and went out in style at his last event in the Netherlands last week, the Papendal Games, where he threw 53.62 metres.

It is not advisable to imitate Matt at home on your own. It can be dangerous and you may find yourself going through your shoes at an alarming rate. ‘The discus throwing ring in Wageningen has a very rough surface. I have already gone through three pairs of shoes since I have been here. Back home I would only have needed two pairs in the same period.’ But according to Matt the extra costs of shoes have been more than made up for. ‘In Australia all I did was work. I didn’t have much time to train. But one day my boss encouraged me to go for this exchange programme and indirectly that has given me the time I needed to train more and get closer again to my personal best (over 55 m, Ed.).’

It was not all that easy for Matt, as he often had to train alone. ‘Unfortunately there was nobody in Wageningen who could coach me. I had to go to other parts of the Netherlands to find people who could help me. I was planning to train with a world class thrower a couple of weeks ago in Groningen, but due to the railway strike I couldn’t get there.’

When Matt trained in Wageningen he usually joined the members of the student athletics club Tartlétos. ‘It’s always fun down there on the track. They are always organising different activities like birthday parties, excursions, and competitions elsewhere in the Netherlands. I have definitely had a good time with them, and not only with the competitions. It was also a great way to get to know more of this country, and to socialise. I will definitely try to come back.’ / Alex van der Meer

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