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14 June 2020 | in FISU Athletes

Armin Hadipour tops off Student Athletes of the Decade list

SAD male athletes

Iranian Taekwondo athlete Armin Hadipour Seighalani rounded up FISU’s Student-Athlete of the Decade campaign that celebrated five female and five male university sport athletes. With three consecutive Universiade gold medals – at Gwangju 2015, Taipei 2017 and Napoli 2019 – Armin was a sure shot for this list.


FISU Secretary General Eric Saintrond awards Armin Hadipour at the FISU Gala 2019“It is an honour to achieve this,” Armin said to FISU on being named in this illustrious list. “I feel an overwhelming sense of pride, glory and responsibility. When you are selected as one of the best student-athletes, many might consider you a role model and that makes it a big responsibility.”


“I would like to spread the true message of sport, which is peace,” he added. “Sport should integrate people around the world and this is my ultimate wish. “This is what I love about the World University Games. Such events gather lots of athletes and officials from all around the world and that is the point."


"Different people with various cultures and backgrounds come together and it is a great opportunity to learn others’ cultures and way of living. I think connecting people with different cultures is one of real legacies of these events.”


Also named among the five male athletes was Ukrainian artistic gymnast Oleg Vernyayev. The 2016 Olympic parallel bars champion and individual all-around silver medallist cut his teeth at the Kazan 2013 Summer Universiade where he won two bronze and one silver medal. By the Taipei 2017 Summer Universiade, his medal haul had gone up to a whopping 14!


Even so, he says he was surprised to be named in this list. “I was very surprised, even shocked! But this is very good news. I always liked these competitions – they are like mini Olympic Games among students and have a special atmosphere.”


About the challenge of being a student-athlete, Oleg says “Of course, it is difficult to combine professional sports and studies. But this is what makes it interesting - to cope with a difficult task. So later, one can tell the young athletes that it is possible to combine both, and that studies don’t interfere with a sports career.”


USA's Zachary Apple won 5 gold medals at Napoli 2019When it comes to a big haul of medals at the World University Games, American swimmer Zachary Apple is not too far behind either. Five gold medals at just a single edition – Napoli 2019 – make a pretty strong case for a Student-Athlete of the Decade nomination. In Italy, Zach finished first in the 100m freestyle, 200m freestyle, 4×100m freestyle, 4×200m freestyle and the 4×100m medley, completely dominating the pool.


“It was awesome,” Zach says of the experience in Naples. “They had such a great environment with the animated crowd, there was a lot of energy.”


“Going in, I thought I had a decent chance at being on the podium but coming off with a win in each race was super exciting,” he adds. “I thought we had a good chance to win the relays, but the two individual golds were like the icing on the cake.”


Belgian decathlete Thomas Van Der Plaetsen and Polish hammer thrower Pawel Fajdek round off the list of Student Athletes of the Decade. Thomas won gold at the Kazan 2013 Summer Universiade, beat cancer, thencame back just a few months later to win gold once again at Gwangju 2015.


Today he's inspiring us through his @backontrackfoundation that is committed to supporting and guiding cancer patients through difficult phases, from diagnosis to treatment and getting back on track in normal life.


As for Pawel; at the five World University Games of the past decade, only one male hammer thrower not named Paweł Fajdek won a gold medal. Becoming Universiade champion four events in a row in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017 (and a four-time World Champion) speaks for itself.