16 FISU Page Banners University Sport News  main

  1. News
  2. /
  3. FISU Athletes
  4. /
  5. Student-athletes like Brittany O’Brien found ways to adapt to 2020
Navigation :

23 December 2020 | in FISU Athletes

Student-athletes like Brittany O’Brien found ways to adapt to 2020

The year 2020 has been challenging, difficult, stressful, and  altogether, unpredictable. In the world of university sport, championships were postponed or cancelled across the globe, new technology was adopted to continue work across borders without travel, and students were faced with constantly changing classroom conditions.


With the constant shifting of the situation, student-athletes along with their coaching and support staff have had to adapt. One such athlete, Australian diver Brittany O’Brien found new ways to cope and also to connect with the wider global community.


“Social media was one of the main ways that you could connect with someone else, because obviously you couldn't have in person contact,” O’Brien said of her approach to the year. “I think with so many people spending more time on social media, I was trying to utilise that and build a bit of a following.”


Although the situation and setting is no doubt very different, O’Brien is no stranger to being a quick adapter. In the diving pool as well, she has shown that she can be flexible and adapt very quickly indeed.


At the Taipei 2017 Summer Universiade, the Australian found her rhythm with a new synchronized partner Emily Meaney, who just happened to live nearly 15,000 kilometres away at Purdue University in the United States.


Brittany O'Brien 3Brittany O'Brien and Emily Meaney, silver medallists at Taipei 2017“It was definitely a bit of a challenge!" laughed O'Brien. "We invested a lot of training in the dryland before doing the dives in the water. But it taught me a lot about adapting."


Even with their limited experience of merely a handful of training sessions together, the pairing came away with a silver medal just narrowly behind a strong North Korean duo, far outperforming expectations from them.


“We didn’t have super high expectations,” O’Brien said. “Coming away with a silver medal was definitely very special and told me a lot about what I was actually capable of doing.”


The 2017 Summer Universiade was one of many high points in the diver's career, during which she has had the opportunity to be part of a large multi-sport Australian team. “There were so many athletes from different sports in one place. It created an atmosphere and community, everyone was in the same boat.”


“It was probably one of the most fun competitions I have ever competed in,” O’Brien spoke of the World University Games in Taipei. 


Brittany O'Brien 6The Sydney-based athlete was training to make the Australian Olympic team for a second time this year, before the pandemic upended her plans. But much like her speedy adaptation to a new synchronized partner, the 22-year-old took it in her stride.


“I felt like I was getting somewhere with my training and to have that snatched away quite quickly was a bit of a shock. But this just gave us all even more time to prepare,” O’Brien said.


Even without travel to competitions, O’Brien has kept herself extremely busy with training and launching her very own online business of handmade jewellery. Draco Jewellery, which was launched in May 2020, brings together two of O’Brien’s passions; fashion and entrepreneurship.


“I’m still sort of getting a feel for the whole business thing, but I’m really enjoying it. I’m happy to build that up a little more in the future, I’m just now getting a taste for running a business, it’s been very rewarding,” O’Brien said.


O’Brien has also kept in touch with divers from across the world through virtual competitions organised with the help of her coach Chava Sobrino and the team at the New South Wales Institute of Sport.


The competitions have featured divers from Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand, Japan and Australia battling it out live over the internet. The competition has been the brainchild of Malaysian coach Christian Brooker and helped give athletes both motivation and purpose during this trying time.


“They worked really hard to put that together. We had a whole bunch of test runs, and then we did the competition for real,” O’Brien said, “There were very high quality cameras and the judges watching from home. It’s a really good creative concept.”


Even with the competition online and not in person, O’Brien found it felt very close to the real thing. “It’s a big different because you don’t have the crowd which brings a certain atmosphere, but the nerves are still very much there,” O’Brien said.


Beyond her commitments in the pool and with her business, O’Brien is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts and Business from Macquarie University.


Even with an uncertain 2021 ahead, with her mastery of balancing commitments and passions, there is no doubt the Australian will stay in step with goals for many years to come.


Matthew byline template edited 1